With so many hurdles to overcome in his personal life recently, it's ironic hurdles is the sport of choice for Kieran Moolchan of the University of Manitoba Bisons track team.
Moolchan, 22, comes in as the top seed in the men's 60-metre hurdles at the 2011 Canada West Track and Field Championships being hosted by the Bisons today and Saturday at Max Bell Fieldhouse.
In the past few months, Moolchan has lost his father Barry to a sudden heart attack, suffered a serious groin pull and waged an ongoing battle with nagging injuries after missing last season with mononucleosis.
"I've dreamed of qualifying for the Olympic team one day and I had a road map but lately, it's been kind of thrown on the rocks," Moolchan, a third-year athlete, said. "But I still want to do it and that's what keeps me going. I'm going to devote most of next year to training, it's an Olympic year, I'll try to qualify."
Moolchan suffered the groin pull Jan. 15 during a race in Fargo and crashed into a hurdle. He lost his dad just days before his 22nd birthday on Jan. 29. He has raced only once this season so far and is keeping his expectations realistic today.
"In this meet, my goal is to not get hurt and hopefully medal because if I medal, I'll be able to go CIS (nationals) in two weeks," said Moolchan, noting last Tuesday was the first time since his groin pull that he went over the hurdles out of the blocks at full speed.
"I love hurdles, it's technical and challenging, and that's what drives me, is to get the perfect hurdle race in where I run the whole race, don't even realize I've run it and I finish and it's with a good time."
Moolchan, whose personal best is 8.38 seconds in the event, got his dad's initials shaved onto one side of his head and the Bisons logo on the other in a stylized Mohawk this week as a both a tribute and motivation.
He said he'll miss his dad greatly this weekend but his heart is warmed by ensuring his dad's favourite activity at track meets will live on.
"I'm making sure that someone is keeping up his tradition of taking excessive amounts of photos," said Moolchan, who will race today at 2:35 p.m. in heats, with the final at 6:15 p.m. "I've got a friend who will take pictures with my dad's camera. Any serious, big meet my dad would have been at but my mom is going to be there so she'll have my back."
Head coach Claude Berube said Moolchan is positive person who has led the Bisons team by example.
"Kieran's first year of university, the first year we won our men's (Canada West) team title of the two years, he was our only gold medallist," Berube said. "Ideally, I'd like to see him qualify (today) to go to the national championship."
The Canada West meet features 260 athletes from eight schools. Manitoba's 23-member male team includes 11 rookies. The 23-member women's team will be led by fifth-year track athlete Meaghan Woo.
"Especially for our younger athletes, this is going to be a great opportunity to get experience competing in a big meet with the idea that next year, that a lot of them qualify for CIS championships," Berube said. "It helps that it's at home. The athletes are going to enjoy the excitement that having family and friends in the crowd will bring."
"I sprint over 42" tall hurdles for 110m or 60m at a time. I run like the wind because I like to hear it whistle in my ears. I sing my lungs out and pound on black-and-white keys until I'm lost in the rapture of music. I'm constantly living like an athlete needs to if he has the hopes of competing for Canada in the Olympic Summer Games. I study politics at the University of Manitoba, play video games and socialize. My life is always open." -- Kieran Moolchan