She works at Hart House Fitness Centre and contributes to this blog. Now, she is also an Olympian. Alicia tells us just how much hard work, grit, and perseverance it takes to realize a childhood dream and get to the Games.

When she was growing up, Alicia Brown didn’t want to be an athlete, she wanted to be an Olympian.

“I was watching the Olympics on TV and I thought it was so cool that these athletes were representing their country and achieving those incredible feats,” says Alicia.

She immersed herself in sports and gave everything to her training. She made sure she got plenty of sleep. She ate the right kinds of food. And, stayed committed year in and year out. She became a CIS Academic All Canadian while holding down her job as a Hart House trainer, and graduated from U of T with a degree in Communications, Culture and Information Technology.

It all paid off. In July, Alicia ran a personal best 51.84 seconds, finishing second in the 400m at the 2016 Canadian Championships and going under the Olympic entry standard. Once at Rio 2016, she ran the second leg for the 4x400m relay, which finished fourth for Canada’s best result in the event since Barcelona 1992.

At the age of 26, Alicia Brown had achieved her lifelong dream.

But the path to victory wasn’t without difficulty. Over the past three years, Alicia grieved the loss of three close relatives. She also tested positive for a banned diuretic. Originally ruled not at fault, she later saw the decision overturned on appeal.

“I couldn’t train at U of T. It was the most challenging period in my life,” says Alicia. “I had to overcome huge amounts of doubt. But I decided to persevere. It drove me to be better and to work harder and to show the world what I’m capable of doing.”

She began going to Downsview Park, the only facility in the city where she could train during her exclusion from competition. It was a tough process, but today she admits it may have pushed her more than anything else.

“Had it not happened, maybe I would’ve gotten injured. Or maybe I just wouldn’t have qualified. I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. Even if we don’t know what that reason is at the time, or ever.

“I used to run with so much anxiety and stress. It’s tempting to think that if you work out hard you’ll be faster, but with that you become tense and you’re not fluid. Being able to run relaxed allows you to run faster. As they say, ‘relax is fast.’ And the day of the race, I wasn’t anxious or stressed. I felt so at peace. It was so strange. I haven’t felt like that going into a race in such a long time. I just kind of had faith in myself and the training and the coaches that if it was going to happen, it was going to happen now.”

Alicia thanks a great deal of people for her success.

“I have such an amazing support system around me, and I’m so thankful for that. U of T Track and Field Club has been amazing. Head coach Carl Georgevski has been amazing, as has my personal coach, Bob Westman. My parents, my sisters, my wonderful boyfriend, my training partners…. Tom Moss at Hart House has been great, as has the staff at Hart House in general and the Fitness Centre in particular. Tom gives me so much flexibility, and basically allowed me to train as I work, which is really hard for an athlete.”

Train with an Olympian

We are extremely proud of Alicia Brown. Alicia has worked at the Hart House Fitness Centre for the last several years, while training extremely hard to realize her dream of being called an Olympian. Hart House has been able to work with her demanding schedule, while finding the perfect balance between training and work. She has been, and will continue to be, a valuable assistant to Fitness Centre users, as both a customer service representative and a fantastic personal trainer. I would encourage students and members to seek her personal training services out, come the fall. It’s not too often you can say your trainer is an Olympian!

Tom Moss, Manager of the Hart House Fitness Centre

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