Nathan VADEBONCOEUR has come full circle as he prepares for the most exciting summer of his athletic career.
Vadeboncoeur, 27, will be among about 1,200 athletes from across Canada competing at the 2012 Boeing Classic track and field meet today through Saturday at the University of Manitoba Max Bell field house. The event will open today with about 1,000 grades 4-6 students competing in the elementary-school relays from 9 a.m. to noon.
This summer, Vadeboncoeur will take his best shot at qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games in London in the men's 400-metre race and the men's 4x400-metre relay.
A graduate of Collège Jeanne-Sauvé who now lives and trains in Vancouver, he said having a chance to run at home in Winnipeg is an important part of his preparation.
"It means a lot. I won my first senior national championship in Winnipeg, so I've a lot of really good experience and success here," said Vadeboncoeur, a member of Canada's national team since 2002. He will compete Friday in the senior men's 400-metre race, which starts around 9 p.m.
"I'd love to build on all the training I've done in the Max Bell as a kid. All the laps I've done around there have made me pretty familiar with that track," said Vadeboncoeur, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. He and his wife Natalie are new parents to three-month-old son Lucas.
"The Boeing is a great test. It's the last chance in the indoor season to get a result to show where I am," he said, noting his best outdoor time in the 400 is 46.12 seconds and the Olympic standard is 45.90.
"Going into the outdoor season, I'll be able to adjust my training accordingly to try to get the best performances I can during the qualifying period of May and June."
Another Olympic hopeful competing at the Boeing is pole-vault specialist Victoria (Robson) Dressler, who has vaulted a personal-best 4.20 metres, Manitoba's indoor and outdoor record. She needs to jump 4.40 metres to qualify for the Olympics.
The 2012 Canadian Track and Field Championships from June 27-30 at Calgary will also serve as the Olympic qualifier.
"Opening the indoor season, I actually jumped my PB (personal best) and I've been consistently around it ever since, which is nice," said Dressler, a teacher at Winnipeg's Valley Gardens Middle School.
"Boeing is one of those last chances at an indoor meet to close the gap between 4.20 and 4.40 before heading to outdoor, where we have May and June to try to hit that B-standard of 4.40. Training has been good and I think I can do it."
For the university athletes competing at the Boeing, the event will be an important final tune-up opportunity before the Canadian Interuniversity Sport track and field championships at the U of M from March 8-10.