Liz Gleadle is speaking to students at Lower Mainland elementary schools this week about why they should want to throw like a girl. If they grow up to throw like she does, they’ll be Olympians.
Gleadle, a six-foot-two graduate of Kitsilano secondary, throws javelin. At the London Summer Games she competed in the medal round and finished 12th overall and cut her world ranking by half.
But before she could throw at the Olympics, Gleadle, 23, had to recover from two injuries, one of them a freak accident at a track and field training centre in Lethbridge where she was hit by an errant hammer that snapped off its chain on a toss from a male thrower.
“I am a little accident prone,” she quipped at the time. She also sprained an ankle.
She got back on her feet and was prepared to stick it out. Working hard was not intimidating and her intense focus on hard work led Gleadle to move from Vancouver to Lethbridge to train with Larry Steinke, Canada’s national javelin coach. She put her kinesiology degree on hold and will return to UBC for one semester in 2013 to finish.
She encourages students to live an active, healthy life: try everything and work hard at the things they care most about.
“I literally tried everything I could,” she said, listing soccer, fast pitch, rock climbing, the viola and more. “You might end up finding your niche, be that in sports or school or arts or whatever you end up doing.”
Gleadle said she was good but never great at the sports she played, and she was not prodigiously gifted. But she was active and because of this, she discovered javelin. And through javelin, she was motivated to work at beating the best. Today she holds the Canadian record in the women’s javelin.
In her childhood dreams, she didn’t see herself at the Olympics but those ambitions changed when her attitude did.
“[The Olympics] was something I dreamed of once I started putting in the work and I started to see results,” she said. “If you work harder than anyone else, you’re going to be the best. If that’s your choice of what you’re going to dedicate yourself to, you’re going to succeed.”
This attitude drives Gleadle, who is focused on winning a medal at the 2016 Rio Summer Games.
Two favourite quotes testify to her commitment.
The first, which she keeps as the background on her iPhone: “Do what they won’t today, so that you can do what they can’t tomorrow.”
And the second, which she had tattooed on her torso in elegant script: “Keep your feet on the ground and your eyes on the stars.”
On Wednesday she spoke at a school in Port Coquitlam and on Thursday she will speak to 230 students at Oppenheimer elementary in Fraserview.