Sticks by her coach

Cana­dian run­ner Melissa Bishop hasn’t left ailing coach’s side

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY LORI EWING

When Melissa Bishop races the 800 me­tres at the world track and field cham­pi­onships, every strong, rhyth­mic step of her run will be set to the roar­ing sound­track of 60,000-strong at Lon­don Olympic Sta­dium.

But the voice in her head will be Den­nis Fairall’s.

Her ailing track coach will watch the drama un­fold in his home of­fice back in Wind­sor, Ont., his wife Janet stand­ing pro­tec­tively be­hind him.

To­gether, they’ll scream at the com­puter un­til they’re hoarse.

De­spite be­ing sep­a­rated by five time zones, the coach lov­ingly known as “Big Dawg” and the finest 800-me­tre run­ner Canada has ever pro­duced will be in sync.

Fairall is bat­tling pro­gres­sive supranu­clear palsy (PSP), a rare de­gen­er­a­tive brain dis­ease that has no cure and is slowly steal­ing his mo­bil­ity and speech.

The world cham­pi­onship is the first ma­jor in­ter­na­tional meet the two have been apart, a long-dis­tance re­la­tion­ship ne­ces­si­tated by Fairall’s fail­ing health, but a part­ner­ship that they make work.

Need proof?

Bishop, who’s the reign­ing world sil­ver medal­list, is run­ning faster than ever, record­ing a time of one minute 57.01 sec­onds two weeks ago in Monaco to eclipse her own Cana­dian record.

“Peo­ple have some opin­ions about it, but this is him and I. This is our jour­ney. This is Den­nis and me,” Bishop said.

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