TUCSON, AZ — The 2018 Winter Games wrapped up in record-setting style for Canada last weekend. Now comes the challenge of nursing the post-Olympic hangover.
To help soften the blow, consider this — we're down to the final 877 days until the 2020 Summer Games begin in Tokyo.
And for one Medicine Hat track star, it can't come soon enough.
"It's definitely something I think about all the time," said Sage Watson over the phone, who raced to an 11th-place finish at the Rio 2016 Games in the women's 400m hurdles event. "I'm really preparing to represent Canada again."
Watson, who graduated Hat High in 2012, has exploded onto the international track and field scene over the last two years.
Since racing in Rio, the 23-year-old tacked on a NCAA Track and Field Championship in her senior year at the University of Arizona, won her first Canadian National Championship by breaking a long-lasting record, and rounded out her summer with a sixth place finish at the World IIHF Track and Field Championships in London, UK last August.
After dealing with some minor fatigue-related injuries last fall, Watson's professional circuit in 2018 is already filling up with podium finishes.
"I started out the 2018 season with two indoor meets," she said. "The first one was in New York at the Millrose Games, I ran the 300 there and I was lucky enough to break the Canadian record which was a 30-year-old standing record. That was really exciting for me to do."
That's not a typo, nor did the Seven Persons product misspeak. Although Watson is best known for her world-calibre ability in the 400m hurdles, she says she's used to competing in several distances.
"The indoor tracks are usually only 200 meters long," she continued. "So the 400 is actually two laps instead of one lap, and the 300 is a lap in a half. There is definitely a little bit of racing strategy in terms of technique that goes into it, but at the same time a race is a race. It's exciting, it's what I love to do. When I get into the blocks it's no different than when I would get into the blocks for the 400 meter hurdles."
After snapping the 30-year record in New York, Watson landed on Canadian soil to compete in the Montreal Grand Prix. She cruised to the gold medal with ease, stopping the clock nearly two seconds ahead of fellow Olympic teammate Noelle Montcalm in the women's 400m.
"Although my indoor season was short, only two meets, I thought they were really successful and I thought I got to start my 2018 season the right way," she said.
Now Watson is turning her attention to what's sure to be a very strong outdoor season. Her next big event is the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, where she'll dawn Canada's colours with the rest of her team in Australia.
Fueling her motivation — the 2018 Winter Games.
"It's really exciting to understand what those Olympians are experiencing because I got to experience it myself," she added, noting she has a new-found appreciation for the training and dedication each athlete requires to reach the world stage.
Watson says she finds it interesting to learn more about each athlete and the journey they took to get to the Olympics.
"Everybody comes from a different story and background, how they were able to train and get to that point," she went on. "I definitely look at it differently that way. Not just whether they medal or not, but what they overcame to get that medal."
For Watson, many pieces to her story are not yet told. Much remains unwritten, only to be found in the next 877 days ahead of Tokyo 2020.
"Watching these Olympics gets me excited," she said. "It reminds me that the Summer Olympics are just around the corner. These two and a half years will go by quickly."
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