Talking Ottawa Lions with Olympian Melissa Bishop

Late last August, when Melissa Bishop finally touched down in Canada and stepped off the plane, she walked into the arms of her family, friends and coaches.

The moment marked the end of what had been a whirlwind summer for one of Canada’s best track and field athletes.

In July, Bishop took the gold in the 800 metre at the Pan Am Games in Toronto. She then followed it up with a silver medal performance at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in August, where she broke Diane Cummins’ Canadian record for the 800m with a blistering time of 1:57.52.

Now, after taking most September off to relax and decompress, Bishop and her coaches are winding things back up as she looks ahead to what could be an even bigger year at 2016’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Run Ottawa had a chance to catch up with the native of Eganville (about an hour and a half drive from Ottawa) while she was in town for the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club 2015 Awards Club.

Bishop started running with the Lions in grade 8 and continued all the way through high school, until moving away to study and compete at the University of Windsor.

Despite the distance, Bishop still has a strong connection to the club.

“Even though I’m not training there now, I’ll always be a Lion,” she said.

Growing up, Bishop said she was the typical student-athlete, playing any and every sport she could. But when she was in grade 8, she decided to focus more on track, and the Lions were the closest club she could train with—they also happened to have one the best development programs in the country.

Making the commitment was tough, because the 135 km drive from Eganville to Ottawa (and back) three times a week would be a huge challenge.

“It wasn’t easy on anybody,” she said. “My parents both worked full-time and my brother was super active with his sports.”

But between her parents, grand-parents, and carpooling with other athletes from the area, the promising athlete always made her meets. Bishop said she’s so thankful for having the support during those formative years of her athletic career.

“I was lucky in that there was never even a doubt in their mind that this is something they would do for me,” she said. “We didn’t know how it would work out in the future, but we’re definitely glad we did it.”

After running with the Lions, Bishop moved on to study human kinetics at the University of Windsor and run with the Lancer track and field team and their legendary coach Dennis Fairall.

In 2010, Bishop took home the Banner Shield award as the top female Lancer athlete, after winning three gold medals at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship and leading Windsor to a second straight national team title.

Bishop has continued to live and train in Windsor since graduation, but she tries to make time to come visit the Ottawa-area to catch up with her former coaches and teammates, as well as talk to young Lions about how far they can go with the support of the club.

“I think it’s a cool thing for kids to see athletes go through a program and come out the other side of it being able to compete at the highest levels,” she said.

“I know when I was younger and wanting to really see how far I could go with track, the Lions definitely helped to foster that dream.”

You can keep up with Melissa’s journey in 2016 by following her on Twitter (@BishopMelissa) and Instagram (@melissacorinneb).