Hamilton’s Romaniw qualifies for Olympics in 800m
When Anthony Romaniw crossed the finish line on Sunday with fellow Hamiltonian Robert Heppenstall just behind him and only Canadian champion Brandon McBride ahead of him, he knew he was Rio bound.
“But it was too much to actually process at the moment,” he tells The Spectator of the berth in the Olympic men’s 800 metres race he earned at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Edmonton over the weekend.
“I crossed the line and I didn’t know what I was expecting to feel but I didn’t feel that much. I couldn’t get my head around it. It’s enormous.
“I remember when I was young, before I was running, watching the Olympics, and thinking ‘I’d like to do that.’ So what would a younger Anthony Romaniw feel? I was trying to get into that head space. I want to be the kid about it that I was back then. But it’s still too big to get my head around.”
He’ll get his head around it. He’s already sought counsel from his parents Gene and Sherry and other athletes with Olympic experience. The 24-year-old Hamiltonian has a history of rising to the challenge, in triple-A hockey, at St. Thomas More, at Dartmouth and at the University of Guelph, where he won several Canadian Interuniversity Sport medals on the track, including three golds in 2013, the same year he was seventh in the World Universiade.
Romaniw came into the national championships and Olympic trials needing to finish second or better in the 800 metres to guarantee a spot on the team. He’d “just squeaked” under the qualifying standard of 1:46.0 by running 1:45.94 in Portland last month.
If he’d finished below second at Edmonton, but still in the top eight, he’d have had to go to stage two of qualifying, with a selection committee choosing from the pool of athletes.
He took that decision out of their hands by finishing second.
Third-place Heppenstall, who went to St. Thomas More a few years after Romaniw and was coached at one point by Gene Romaniw, had already qualified for the world junior championships in Poland July 22. Phil Steel, Heppenstall’s coach also coached Romaniw as a junior.
“Robert and I are pretty close, and he was running better than me at the start of the year,” Romaniw says.
“It was weird. Four years ago at the trials, who’d have thought that the guy who was standing in my way for the Olympic was a guy coached by my dad?”
In his earlier years Romaniw was coached not only by his father but also briefly by his older brother Chris. He says that Hamilton is fertile breeding ground for middledistance and distance runners because “there is no reason to leave to train. There are good coaches, and there are great places to run: around Mac and Dundas, and in Stoney Creek. We used to run the Paradise stairs all the time. And there is a lot of history of running there: the oldest race over 10 kilometres (Around The Bay), the indoor meet at Copps Coliseum.”
The world and Olympic record for the men’s 800 was set by Kenyan David Rudisha in London four years ago at 1:40.91, over four seconds below Romaniw’s best.
“My goal for Rio is just to be in good shape and head space when I get there,” he says. “With the exception of a few, on any given day anybody can beat anybody in the 800. I think if I run the prelims well, I think I can make it to the semifinals. I’d like to get to the finals and then, in the 800, anything can happen.” TRACK NOTE: Robert Heppenstall has left for the world junior championships. Cardinal Newman grad Taysia Radoslav also left, for the North American Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association championships in El Salvador. She was sixth in the 400-metre hurdles on the weekend at the Canadian national senior track and field championships.
Anthony Romaniw leads the field at an 800m event. Romaniw, a Hamilton native, will race at the Rio Olympics.