Malindi Elmore. (Malindi Elmore/Instagram)

Malindi Elmore. (Malindi Elmore/Instagram)

Kelowna runner goes for the gold at the Olympics, 17 years after her first try

Malindi Elmore will run for Team Canada at the summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan

Olympian Malindi Elmore was seven years old when she fell in love with running.

“I would often race my dad down the street or have my parents time me how long it took to run from my house to the mailbox,” Elmore told the Capital News.

“It just kind of gave me a thrill to see how fast I could move my body.”

And once she got that thrill, Elmore couldn’t stop. The Kelowna native would continue to run throughout her entire childhood, a passion that has stuck with her since.

By age 16, Elmore knew her love for running would have a deeper meaning in her life and made it a goal to run in the Olympics.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the Olympics,” she continued, “but I had a lot of injuries and ups-and-downs between 16 and 24.”

But that never stopped her from keeping her eye on the gold. After she finished her undergraduate degree in 2003, she moved to Calgary to reunite with her high school coach, Mike Van Tighem.

“We just did everything we could to be ready to run in the 2004 Olympics,” said Elmore.

Elmore had a personal best that year and landed some top three performances at big meets, which qualified her for the 1500-metre in the Athens, Greece Olympics at age 24.

“It was a dream come true,” she explained. “But it was a little bit overwhelming at times. It’s a pretty big deal being there; walking into the stadium with 100,000 people cheering and screaming.”

Elmore described the experience as “unreal.”

“It would be like taking a kid from junior level hockey and then throwing them in game 7 in the NHL playoffs. It was super intense,” she continued.

Although she didn’t make it to the finals, the experience was life-changing. Afterwards, she continued to run professionally for eight years in track and field in the PanAm games, university-level games, and more.

In 2007, she married her husband Graham Hood, a two-time Olympic champion. Hood ran the 1,500-metre in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. The duo ranks seven out of 25 on a list of the fastest running married couples. She had her first son in 2012, which was when she decided to retire from long-distance running.

She still stayed active by competing in triathlons, but when she had her second son in 2018, she felt it was time to retire from that too and focus on being a mom.

“But then one day, I was out for a run with my husband and I thought I would love to do a marathon just for fun,” Elmore said. “And then I did my first marathon a few months later in 2019.”

At the time, her youngest son was six months old. The family went to Houston, Texas, for a marathon where Elmore ran two hours and 32 minutes – two minutes off the Olympic standard. This sparked a realization for both her and her husband that she had a good shot at making an Olympic team again.

Seventeen years after her first Olympic appearance, Elmore is training for a second Olympic run. She is a 41-year-old mother-of-two, and according to Elmore, those two factors are why she is going into the Olympics a second time, stronger than ever.

“I have more mental strength and capacity now than I did when I was 24,” said Elmore. “I’m highly motivated to make my sons proud and to model values that we would like to pass on to them and our family.”

Elmore said she is excited to wear the Canadian flag on her shoulders and she’s especially excited to represent Kelowna.

“I’m born and raised here, and I’ve chosen to raise my family here, so this is home,” Elmore said. “I have so many miles run on the roads and different pathways here.”

Elmore will soon head to the Tokyo, Japan training camp, where she will join the rest of the Olympic track and field team. After that, she‘ll head to Sapporo, Japan, where the Olympic race will be held.

Unfortunately, her sons can’t join because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they will watch mom on television. She won’t be at the Olympics alone, though. Her former coach, Van Tighem, who now lives in Summerland, is the head coach for the Olympic marathon race-walk team. He still coaches her part-time.

“Sometimes, if you just take a step back and do something that you love but really commit to it and follow the process of being the best you can be, you can do amazing things,” she said.

The women’s marathon event is set to take place on August 7.

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