Diane Cummins, master tactician


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Here’s the recap of today’s Canadian Commonwealth track medals that I wrote for Canadian Running‘s website. There would have been video interviews too, but I forgot to put the SD card back in the camera before heading down to the track. I’m still learning this “new media” stuff!

A thrilling stretch run by veteran 800-metre runner Diane Cummins capped another medal-filled day for Canadian athletes at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi on Monday, following up the previous day’s golds from high jumper Nicole Forrester and long jumper Alice Falaiye.

Leading off was veteran 100-metre hurdler Angela Whyte, an Olympic finalist in 2004 who has struggled since having knee surgery in 2008. The Edmontonian’s silver medal in a “comeback best” of 12.98 seconds puts her back on track to rejoin teammates Priscilla Lopes-Schliep and Perdita Felicien among the best in the world. Next up was a surprise bronze medal in the 200 metres from Canadian champion Adrienne Power, who earlier this year moved from Nova Scotia to Texas to train with renowned coach Monte Stratton.

Cummins entered the race ranked near the bottom of the field, but with more championship experience than anyone else in the final. Co-favourite Tintu Luka of India took the field through in a brisk 57.5, to the rapturous approval of the crowd. With 250 metres to go, Olympic champion Nancy Langat of Kenya moved to the front, while Cummins languished back in sixth place. Around the final bend, Cummins began moving through the field, setting up a rousing finish as first Luka and then Langat began to fade. With 10 metres left, all three medal spots were still in question.

At the line, it was Langat in 2:00.02, followed by Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand in 2:00.05, with Cummins picking up the bronze in 2:00.13. “If I’d had two more metres…” she said after the race, smiling. “But they don’t race 802 metres, they race 800 metres.” At 36 years of age, Cummins, who like Whyte had surgery in 2008, isn’t yet ready to retire – London in 2012 is a possibility, she said. She’ll likely run more 1,500-metre races next year, where her tactical skills will once again come into play. “For me, racing is really what it’s all about,” she said. “That’s why middle-distance races are so exciting – it’s not just about who’s fastest.”