Windsor — “I’m happy with it, but I’m not satisfied yet.”
That is how Eganville Olympian Melissa Bishop-Nriagu described her recent return to active competition in her specialty, the 800 metres, on June 7 at the Guelph Inferno meet where she finished first and set a new meet record in a time of 2:01.01.
It was Ms. Bishop-Nriagu’s first race at that distance in almost two years, following her pregnancy and birth of daughter, Corinne Chidera Nriagu on July 2, 2018.
“It was my first 800 in almost two years,” she told The Leader. “I did well, but it’s kind of a mixed bag of feelings.
“Considering I’ve had two years off and had a baby, I think I did really well,” she added. “I broke the meet record and won the race, which are all great things, but as an athlete, and knowing where I was and what I want to do, I still really want to do a lot more than that.”
For anyone who knows the daughter of Doug and Alison Bishop of Eganville, those comments would come as no surprise Throughout her career, including her initial competition at the 2012 London Olympics, her gold medal win at the Pan Am Games in Toronto and silver at the World Championship in Beijing in 2015, and her fourth-place finish in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she has always strived to be better, celebrating her accomplishments briefly with a dogged determination to improve the next time out.
“I don’t think I’d be an athlete if it was otherwise,” she said of her determination to improve. “To know that I’m back in the game, I’m healthy, I’m on my way to fast times, and I’m ahead of where we had originally projected we would be, those are really positive things to take out of it.”
Her win in the 800 meters in Johnny Loaring Classic Guelph was preceded by her setting a new personal best (4:09.36) in a 1500 metre race she had competed in on May 8 weeks earlier in Windsor.
“It was a very small PB, but a PB nonetheless,” she remarked. “It just goes to show we did but our work in the fall and even during pregnancy.
“I ran my butt off during the pregnancy and it’s paying off now,” she added.
She said she started her comeback with the 1500 event for two reasons, first it was the availability of the location as she did not want to travel that far right now, and secondly, the 1500 is a good test of her fitness level because of its length.
Ms. Bishop-Nriagu said her next scheduled race is tomorrow (June 20) at the Harry Jerome Classic in Vancouver and after that it’s on to the Canadian Track and Field Championship in Montreal from July 25-28.
“It’s not a typical year for us and it probably won’t be until I can re-establish myself on the Diamond League circuit,” she said. “And I need to run fast in order to get into the Diamond League. That’s really what we’re waiting for right now.”
The IAAF World Championship is being held in Quatar in late September, early October.
“We’re aiming for that, that’s my goal for this year,” she stated.
To absolutely secure a spot on the Canadian team, she would have to win her event and run the “standard” time.
“That would be an absolute given and then there’s a whole slew of other what-ifs,” she explained. “But we’re just going to take the easy way and run standard and win Nationals and worry about the rest later.”
She believes she will have to run a sub-2:00.00 to guarantee a spot on the team, plus the win at Nationals.
She had planned to attend a few indoor meets earlier in the year but said her body wasn’t ready for that post-pregnancy.
“So we forewent the indoor schedule and just focused on trying to put in some lost time with mileage and that sort of stuff,” she said.
Ms. Bishop-Nriagu said Corinne will come to the track with her dad, Osi Nriagu, when she is training and she wants to interact with her during the breaks, when she previously would have been just focusing on her “job”.
“But I will say, it has kind of balanced me out. I go to the track, I do my job, I do the work I have to, and then I can just leave everything there, whether it was good day or a bad day. I can come home and just know that there’s a smiling baby waiting for me at home.
“It’s a transition into different roles rather than athlete all the time and I think it’s been very healthy for us, right now” she added. “Having children really puts life into perspective and until you have them, I don’t know if you can really gain that perspective.
They’re just such a gift. Track is not the whole world right now.”
Previously, she would eat, sleep and breathe her sport while now her days are scheduled around naps and feedings and track and field is slotted in when she can, which adds to her satisfaction with her recent results.
Now 30, she said she is excited to see another Valley athlete, Madeleine (Maddy) Kelly, of Pembroke, doing well in the sport.
“We actually raced together on Friday night. She’s doing very well.”
She expects her to be one of her competitors in Vancouver and it would be great to see another Valley athlete follow in her footsteps.
“I think any chance we get, no matter who it is, to represent the Valley, is something that’s really special.”
Toyota Announces Sponsorship
Ms. Bishop-Nriagu received some other welcome news last week as Toyota Canada has selected her as one of 10 inspirational athletes preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to receive sponsorship from the company.
A press release said the company was impressed by Ms. Bishop-Nriagu’s inspirational story.
“A two-time Olympian, Bishop has battled injury time and time again, only to return stronger than ever,” it stated. “Leading up to 2020, she faces her biggest hurdle yet — getting back to the best running shape of her life after recently giving birth to her daughter.
“Few female athletes have successfully comeback from pregnancy to return to their pre-motherhood success,” it continued. “Bishop is looking to change all that.”
The release included a stetment from the newest member of Team Toyota.
“I want to knock the socks off people,” she said, adding she hoped her story would inspire other moms and moms-to-be.
Windsor — “I’m happy with it, but I’m not satisfied yet.”