Canada Games

Harris captures gold in 800 metres at Canada Games

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The Canadian Press
8/27/2009 6:58:17 PM
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CHARLOTTETOWN -- Geoff Harris crossed the line and raised a tired arm in victory.

If there were times over the past few weeks when the Halifax runner wondered whether his battle for a berth on the Nova Scotia team for the Canada Summer Games was worth all the frustration, that moment made it crystal clear.

Harris certainly proved he belonged at the Games, racing to gold in the 800 metres Thursday, just a week after a favourable decision by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court allowed him a spot on his provincial team bound for P.E.I.

"It was my right to come and win this," Harris said. "It felt really good to get here and do it. It validated it all for me, it was definitely worth the whole cost."

The 22-year-old battled stiff winds that swirled around the track at Alumni Canada Games Place to win in minute 50.59 seconds. Olivier Collin of St-Lazarre, Que., captured the silver in 1:50.93 edging teammate Tommy Lecours of Quebec City, who finished third in 1:50.94.

"It feels amazing, it's been a really, really up-and-down process to get here with that extreme low of being named to the team and then taken off and even accepting I wasn't going to be running, to getting here, making the final, being the favourite to win, and proving that I was worthy of that," Harris said. "It's been one extreme to the other, but in the end it probably made it better for me."

Harris was runner-up to Canadian veteran Gary Reed at the national senior championships in Toronto earlier this season. He then departed for Belgium to train and compete, feeling his spot on the team was secure after receiving an exemption from Nova Scotia's Canada Games trials based on his national team status.

However, Harris's selection was challenged by Kyle Tramble and an arbitrator gave the spot on the Canada Games team to the Dartmouth, N.S., runner.

Harris applied for an emergency appeal in a rare move in amateur sport that he knows didn't sit well with some, and Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled in his favour Thursday afternoon, just two days before he joined his teammates for the flight to Charlottetown.

Thursday night, with a large contingent of Halifax family members and friends cheering him on, he stayed back of the two Quebec runners through the first 600 metres in the final, taking the lead with 200 metres to go.

"Quebec really went out and kind of made a good wall," he said. "When I went to pass them with 200 to go, they made him go way out wide. When I got in front the one Quebec runner gave me a big shove, I kind of almost wanted to look back at him, like `What was that for?' But that's just all the tactics of 800s, and I'm not a very big guy so I get pushed around a lot, I'm used to it."

Harris wasn't challenged again. He glanced down at the shadows on the track several times over the final 50 metres to make sure he was safe before cruising to victory.

"I realized I was pretty comfortable and just floated in," he said. "It felt great."

His coach Heather Hennigar said it wasn't easy for Harris to keep his cool through a crazy few weeks.

"Ultimately he's kept his head in the game," Hennigar said.

And the battle he fought just to be on the team, the coach added, became a huge boost to win the gold.

"Absolutely, he came in and he's been extremely focused, he's just been in the zone the entire time he's been here, and very very motivated, and he's had a lot of pressure on his shoulders," Hennigar said. "He's dealt with it very well."

Harris knows his decision to take his fight all the way to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court was unpopular with some. Tramble was dropped from the team when Harris was reinstated.

"It's the whole balance of for and against," he said. "There were people that said, `Once Geoff lost to the arbitrator, that should have been it, why is he fighting it?' I heard someone say, `Why is he sulking about it? He's not going to stop until he gets his way.' At times I was thinking: `Maybe they're right, maybe I did take it too far."'

Harris spent the day of his race in his room in the athletes village.

"I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was running for and that made it a lot easier for me. I thought about the people that put a lot of time making sure I could get here. That gave me a good reason to run. It was definitely worth it."

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