Illini enjoying homefield advantage

Illini enjoying homefield advantage

EDMONTON, Alberta – Chances are Cathy Moe's voice won't reach her daughter's ears. Not with the sounds of 45,000 excitable track and field fans filling the air at a festive Commonwealth Stadium.

But that's OK with Perdita Felicien. It will be enough for Illinois' world-class hurdler to know she can see her mother.

"I think that's the biggest inspiration," Felicien said. "The best part of going to Edmonton is that she can make the trip."

Since Felicien left her Pickering, Ontario, home for Illinois 19 months ago, she's dearly missed the sights and sounds of her mother in the stands.

Moe never has seen her four-time All-American daughter compete in the United States. In fact, until Moe and the rest of the family made the 3 1/2-hour drive to Ottawa, Ontario, last month for the Francophonie Games, Felicien had not run in front of her mother since leaving home.

Quite a departure from those days when Felicien was a precocious hurdler-in-training and Moe was a most vocal observer at her daughter's home meets.

"She was always there," Felicien said. "She was always the loudest mom cheering. She's always been so supportive and encouraging of me in my sport."

Little wonder, then, that Felicien let out a cheer herself upon learning the 2001 World Outdoor Championships would be held in her home country. After missing out on so many of her daughter's big moments during the past 19 months – including the 2000 Olympics in Australia – Moe will be able to travel here to view every one of Felicien's World Championships races.

"We've already arranged that she will be (seated along) the straightaway," the Illini junior-to-be said.

Just like old times. And in the moments leading up to Felicien's 100-meter hurdles dashes, she intends to revisit the comforting ritual that mother and daughter shared in a younger time.

"I'll take a couple seconds and glance and wave and see where she's at so that right before the race I can look up and know she's there," Felicien said. "I remember always looking for her and I'd spot her out."

BAD MEMORIES

Under other circumstances, Felicien might be approaching her first World Championships with trepidation. Her last visit to Commonwealth Stadium, in late June for the Canadian national meet, was the stuff of nightmares.

"I'd have to say it was the most horrible experience that I've had to date," the Big Ten outdoor athlete of the year said.

Felicien entered with high hopes of repeating as Canada's national champion in the 100 hurdles, a feat that earned her a spot in the Sydney Olympics. She left as the deposed champion who did not even make it out of her preliminary heat.

There were extenuating circumstances. Felicien and other hurdlers were on the track warming up when it started to rain. Twenty minutes later, the soggy group was sent indoors to wait out the weather.

"We were soaking wet, thinking they would delay the races to later that night or give us a chance to warm up again and find dry clothes," Felicien said. "We begged that the meet director give us that option."

Instead, approximately two hours after the group had begun warmups, they were sent to the starting blocks on 10 minutes notice.

Felicien sensed this could be trouble.

"You can't run in wet soaking clothes," she said. "You can't run when you're cold. I just got in the blocks like I had woken up. My muscles were like, 'You can't go.' "

She didn't. At least not the whole way, tripping and falling seven hurdles into the race.

"But that's out of my system," Felicien said.

It is because the world's ninth-ranked 100-meter hurdler has come to view the experience more dispassionately than she could at first.

"If the circumstances were different – if I was warm and ready to go – I'm confident in the fact I would have won," Felicien now says.

BOUNCING BACK

The Commonwealth crash is out of her system, too, because she proved what a fluke it was a few weeks later. Competing in the Francophonie Games – an Olympic-style competition for French-speaking nations – Felicien won the gold medal in her specialty while clocking 12.92 seconds in the final.

The sigh of relief could be heard all the way to Champaign-Urbana.

"What I needed at Ottawa was to win and to run under 13 (seconds), which I did," Felicien said. "I think if I had messed up at Ottawa, I would have been going in (to the World Championships) with that same apprehension. Like 'Whoa, this is the doomed lane. This is the doomed track where all my dreams were crushed of having a national championship.' "

Instead, she's returning to Commonwealth Stadium confident in her abilities and savvy in the ways of big international meets. Felicien expects her experience in the Sydney Games, where she did not advance out of the preliminaries, will serve her well next week.

"At Sydney, I really didn't know what I was getting into," she said. "I'm going to be a lot more prepared for this, physically as well as psychologically."

And unlike the Sydney Olympics, Felicien will have certain a family member watching and cheering her every stride.

You can expect Cathy Moe's daughter to have her eyes peeled, too, moments before each of her races.

On that familiar and reassuring figure seated along the straightaway.

"I think that's all I'm going to need," Felicien said.

Keeping track at the World Championships

The eighth IAAF Outdoor Track and Field World Championships began Friday and runs through Aug. 12 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta. A look at current and former Illinois athletes scheduled to compete:

NAME

COUNTRY

EVENT

TOP TIME

COMMENT

Tonja Buford-Bailey

United States

400-meter hurdles

54.77

Still holds No. 2 all-time clocking in this event

Perdita Felicien

Canada

100-meter hurdles

12.73

Like Buford-Bailey, ranks ninth in world in her specialty

Yvonne Harrison

Puerto Rico

400-meter hurdles

56.44

Three-time All-American running for mother''s native country

Susanna Kallur

Sweden

100-meter hurdles

12.85

2000 Junior world champion steps onto Senior world stage

SCHEDULE

Sunday - Women''s 400 hurdles, preliminaries

Monday - Women''s 400 hurdles, semifinals

Wednesday - Women''s 400 hurdles, finals

Thursday - Women''s 100 hurdles, preliminaries

Friday - Women''s 100 hurdles, semifinals

Saturday - Women''s 100 hurdles, finals

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