Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Melissa Bishop Will Run in Rio in a Race That Means Much More Than Olympic Medal

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Melissa Bishop Will Run in Rio in a Race That Means Much More Than Olympic Medal

Article excerpt

Trip to Rio for both Bishop and Fairall

--

EDMONTON - Their's is a partnership forged over the better part of a decade of some of the highest of highs and most gut-wrenching lows.

And when Melissa Bishop crouches at the start line of the 800-metre race in Rio, she won't be alone.

The man she lovingly calls "Big Dawg" -- her coach Dennis Fairall -- is battling progressive supranuclear palsy, a degenerative condition that has no cure. They'll be together in Rio, for a race that means so much more than an Olympic medal.

"It's a run for Dennis," Bishop said Saturday, with a sad smile. "This is why I'm doing this. In 2012 when he was ill with cancer (of the larynx), I was doing this for Dennis. And now we've grown so much in these past four years, this is really for Dennis.

"Because I don't know. . . I don't know how much farther we'll go with this."

The 27-year-old from Eganville, Ont., will head to Rio as one of Canada's brightest stars after her thrilling silver medal performance at last summer's world championships.

Bishop must earn her spot first, of course, but needs only a top-three finish Sunday at the Olympic trials.

Saturday, wearing her blonde hair pulled back, a grey and black singlet and shorts, and a dark tan left over from warm-weather training, Bishop cruised to an easy semifinal win. She kicked to pull away form her competitors over the final 200 metres to cross in a relaxed two minutes 5.8 seconds.

"I was impressed by the way she held off the challenges," said Fairall, a wizard at race tactics.

A coaching icon, Fairall has been named either CIS or OUA coach of the year 65 times in track and field and cross-country. His teams have won 71 CIS and OUA titles, including 20 CIS national track titles.

The 63-year-old was diagnosed almost three years ago with PSP, which is the deterioration of cells in the brain that control body movement and thinking. Survival from onset averages seven years.

"Big Dawg" is actually about Bishop's height -- five foot seven -- and he has a full head of white hair that's usually stuffed under a baseball cap.

He has good days and bad days. Stairs are difficult to negotiate, and the nights, when he's tired, are particularly tough. …

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