July 20th, 2024

Canadian hurdler Malik Metivier eyes final shot at Paris at Canadian Olympic trials

By Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press on June 25, 2024.

Canada's Malik Metivier competes in the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in a June 2022 handout photo. The pressure is heavy, but the opportunity is massive for Malik Metivier. The Toronto native will be competing at the Canadian track and field Olympic trials that run from Wednesday through Sunday in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Texas Tech Athletics, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

The pressure is heavy, but the opportunity is massive for Malik Metivier.

The Toronto hurdler will be competing at the Canadian track and field Olympic trials that run from Wednesday through Sunday in Montreal.

Saturday will be the 25-year-old Metivier’s final shot at meeting the Olympic standard of 48.70 seconds in the 400-metre hurdles to go to Paris.

“You know (how) extreme hot and extreme cold, the burns feel the same? It’s like that,” he said. “The level of pressure has just been so high I almost start to just feel numb, you know? It made me turn to God a lot more.

“Right now, I’m just loving it. Every day feels almost like life or death because the Olympics, that’s how you make your money. I’ll really be able to set up the next four years financially with just qualifying. Without doing that, it’s going to be way more difficult.

“For me, this is everything.”

Metivier was a silver medallist at the 2022 NCAA championships in the men’s 400 hurdles in his senior year at Texas Tech before encountering a string of bad luck.

A pulled hamstring at Canadian trials caused him to miss the 2022 world championships and at the Commonwealth Games, he was disqualified from the final for a false start.

Metivier has been battling injuries since then. He was diagnosed with a fracture in his right foot in February 2023, but couldn’t leave the United States until his visa to train there was processed. In order for Athletics Canada to cover the surgery and rehab, it had to be done in Canada.

Metivier got his visa in October but was told by surgeons that he no longer needed surgery because the bone had largely healed by then.

He joined coach Kurt Downes in Windsor, Ont., to begin the process of training and rehab in preparation for a run at Paris. The pair tapped into resources from Athletics Canada and contacts of Downes himself to get Metivier as healthy as possible.

“It was just shocking how easy it was to get back to just running fast,” Metivier said. “I had a lot of confidence before the body started breaking down these last few weeks.

“Coach Kurt is like a magician, man. “¦ He knows we can’t get a lot of work in, so he makes it that everything we do is very specific, very intense and you can feel yourself getting better every time you touch the track.

“So I think capability-wise, he’s gotten me ready. We just got to get to the finish line healthily and I’ll be all right.”

Metivier was supposed to make his season debut in late April at the Drake Relays but had a hamstring issue. Then he had to withdraw during his race on May 31 at the Edwin Moses Legends Meet in Atlanta due to a lower-leg injury.

The debut eventually came on June 13 at the Edmonton Athletics Invitational where he ran 49.07 seconds, his third-fastest time ever, despite it being his first race in almost two years and feeling “80 per cent” from his latest injury issue.

“I think Malik is an interesting athlete,” Downes said. “For the majority of his collegiate career, he was hurt. But when he’s been healthy, he’s been like a world beater, he’s been able to do some pretty phenomenal things when healthy.”

“He had a very sloppy race out in Edmonton and was able to run his third-fastest time ever at 49.07,” he added.

Metivier decided to focus on his health rather than take an extra chance to race in Montreal last week to aim for the standard. But he is also confident that he can achieve it at national trials with extra time to improve his health.

“We have a lot of confidence in his ability to do it there (in Montreal),” Downes said. “We just have to go out and get that race.”

“The pressure is going to be something that I’m really looking forward to because the chances of me making this team, mathematically are slim to none, but in my head it just almost makes it that much clearer in my mind that it’s going to happen,” Metivier added.

“I know myself and it’s not going to end poorly.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2024.

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