Canada's Brittany Crew Found Strength, Success in Shot Put Circle

By Ewing, Lori | The Canadian Press, July 4, 2017 | Go to article overview

Canada's Brittany Crew Found Strength, Success in Shot Put Circle


Ewing, Lori, The Canadian Press


Crew set to book spot on world team

--

TORONTO - Brittany Crew is at home in the shot put circle, where she crouches with a steel ball buried in the crook of her neck before exploding in a spinning blur that's as much ballet as brute strength.

It's where Crew overcame bullying in school. Where she pulled herself back from the brink of depression and drinking. And where she became an Olympian and a national record-holder.

The 23-year-old from Toronto will compete at the Canadian track and field championship this week in Ottawa to officially book her spot on the team for the world championships in London in August.

It's virtually a foregone conclusion -- she's already achieved the world qualifying standard six times.

It's been an incredible turnaround for the thrower who a couple of years ago was working two jobs -- at McDonald's and Loblaws -- and binge drinking on weekends.

"I've come great strides, let's put it that way, in the last three years," Crew said with a smile. "I've kind of turned my life upside down."

Or right side up.

Crew is enjoying a breakout season, shattering the Canadian record twice in May over the span of 48 hours. She broke Julie Labonte's record set in 2011 when she threw 18.47 metres, then went even better two nights later with a toss of 18.58, a distance that ranks her 12th in the world in an event where athletes traditionally peak much older.

Crew had a chaotic upbringing with drug addiction part of her family dynamic. Sports was her escape. She'd grab her soccer ball and head for the park.

"Sports has always been my coping mechanism," Crew said. "I'd come home from the park and I'd feel better."

Soccer was her first love. But she took up track at the encouragement of a high school coach who said she had the perfect build to be a thrower -- she's been five foot 10 since Grade 6.

A woman's shot put weighs 8.8 pounds, around the weight of an average newborn. Men throw 16 pounds, the weight of a bowling ball. Crew describes the sport as "controlled chaos," a mix of finesse, speed and strength.

"A lot of people will attribute it to being a ballerina, but a really fast and strong one," Crew said.

Still, she wasn't sold on shot put at first.

"Especially when you're in high school and you're a female, you're just trying to find your way, and it's a masculine sport, you get bullied for that," she said.

She wrote a paper on body image for a university kinesiology class, addressing society's skewed version of the ideal female body as "that thin girl with the six-pack abs."

"As shot putters you cannot look like that and throw it far ... because your body is a machine, and that's what's getting you to where you need to be," Crew said. "If I were to lose 20 pounds I wouldn't throw as far as I do now. …

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