Things Girls Do Exclusive
Against all odds, 26 year old Alicia Brown has overcome every athlete’s worst nightmare, a doping scandal, to finish in the top two at the 400-metre qualifying race for the Olympics. During the scandal, it was ruled that Alicia was not at fault, but the decision was later overturned on appeal. However hard it was, Alicia didn’t let it stop her. She’s come out blazing, and ran a personal best at 51.84 seconds during her qualifying race. Canada’s 2013 national champion is no newcomer to racing for her nation, but Alicia says qualifying to represent the country in the 400-metre and 4 x 400-metre relay races at the Olympics in Rio is a childhood-dream come true.
TGD: What inspired your journey to becoming professional athlete?
Alicia: This dream started when I was really young. I remember watching the Sydney Olympics back in 2000 on the couch with my parents and thinking “This is the coolest thing ever!! I want to do that too!” The dream flourished then but my family inspired my fight to keep moving forward. I have two younger sisters and 11 cousins (9 of which are younger than I am). It is important to me to lead by example. I want to show people that we create our destiny and that with a strong belief in self, a well executed plan, and a lot of hard work we can be the person we aspire to be.
TGD: What was your reaction when you found out you qualified for the Olympics?
Alicia: I ugly cried, just not right away like I imagined I would after running the qualifying standard at Olympic Trials. This reaction happened in stages. I remember crossing the finish line at the end of my 400m race and realizing that I finished a really close 2nd to a super speedy Canadian competitor (top 2 athletes with Olympic standard auto qualified for the team). They announced the winning time - it was well below standard. My time followed. I was 0.12 sec off the winner. I had qualified for the Olympics! I think at that point most people would be ecstatic but I felt numb largely in part because I just ran the fastest 400m of my life and everything inside of me hurt real bad. As I walked off the track I was greeted by one of my training partners and my old coach. They were loosing their minds in excitement and that is when I started to realize the magnitude of what I had just accomplished... still not fully believing it as of yet. I then heard some screams coming from the stands. I looked up to see my mom and dad running down the stairs towards me. My mom had tears in her eyes as she hugged me, and that’s when I realized I did it. The waterworks came soon after and then again a few other times as the night went on.
TGD: You lived through all professional athletes' nightmare "a doping scandal" - how did you overcome it?
Alicia: It was definitely one of the most challenging obstacles I have ever had to overcome but the things I learned along the way are timeless. I have the most amazing support system. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my friends, family, boyfriend, coaching and therapy staff and legal team. These people believed in my innocence and integrity as much as I did and they helped me to stay focused on my end goal despite the adversity before me. We truly got through it together.
TGD: Who are your biggest supporters and how have they helped you?
Alicia: I am going to talk about my friends and family a lot. Firstly, my coach and training partners are out there with me every single day putting in the same work that I do. My parents have supported me emotionally and financially in ways that I am forever grateful. My sisters, and friends have phenomenal listening ears and inspiring words of encouragement and I can count on them to be brutally honest and loving. They give me exactly what I need when I need it. My boyfriend has taught me to let go – to let go of my worries, and insecurities and to embrace my experiences (good or bad) with open arms while working to become the best person I can be. I thank Omega Health and Fitness for keeping me healthy. Lastly, I thank the University of Toronto Track and Field program for taking this journey with me and creating an environment conducive to success.
I’d also like to give a shout to the world’s best roommate, Sofia. This girl has become my mom away from home, my therapist and my confidant. She is super thoughtful and has done many things to make my life easier at home over this past year.
TGD: What advice do you have for those hoping to become a sprinter?
Alicia: Doing anything at a high level requires a lot of patience, practice and perseverance - and passion of course! My advice would be to find what you love and work hard everyday towards being the best at what you love. The easiest place to start is to set small goals to avoid feeling overwhelmed by your ambitions. If you want to become a world-class sprinter start by setting a goal that will help you increase your core strength for example. Make your goal to work up to 8 minutes of continuous ab exercises and once you’ve accomplished that goal, set a new one.
TGD: Are there any other Olympians you would like to meet in Rio?
Alicia: I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of my track idols over the years (Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix to name a few). It would be really cool to sit down with Allyson Felix to pick her brain a little more. I think she’s flawless. I kind of want to know what her parents fed her as a child so I can go out and get it and eat it. Everyday.
TGD: What does competing in the Olympics for Team Canada mean to you and for you?
Alicia: The Olympic Games are arguably the world’s biggest sporting event and they provide an opportunity for people all over the world to come together for a common cause. I think this is really important, especially during a time where there is so much pain in the world. I feel very honoured and privileged to represent my country. I can’t wait to show the world what I can do!
TGD: When you’re not training, how do you relax?
Alicia: When I am not training I am usually at work – I am a personal trainer. My free time is limited but when I do get the chance to relax I enjoy spending time with my boyfriend, my sisters, and my close friends. I’m always down for a good movie and some good company. I am also a huge foodie. I had to cut out gluten and dairy for training purposes, but I really love both those things dearly. My boyfriend makes fun of me about it all the time. He thinks it’s hilarious to dangle waffles and ice cream in front of me. It hurts me a little bit inside.
TGD: Of the 400m and the 4x 400m, which race do you feel most confident about?
Alicia: Both really. The races require the same amount of work on my part but they bring a very different vibe. The 400m is my baby, I’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time. I can’t wait to share this with the nation. The team aspect of the relay makes it so much fun to be apart of. Canada has a really strong team this year, and I am really excited to see what we can do together. We are all pretty amped.
TGD: Finish the sentence “Nothing beats --------------on a Saturday evening.
Alicia: Nothing beats cuddles with my boyfriend on a Saturday evening. We don’t get to see much of each other during the week because of our schedules so Saturday nights are for chilling out and catching up.
Cover photo by Mike Lupine