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01 July 2020 | in FISU Athletes, Summer FISU World University Games

Canada Day special: Canadian runner remembers culture shock at Universiade!

Kimberley HyacintheFor three-time Universiade participant Kimberly Hyacinthe, cultural experiences at the FISU World University Games were as memorable as the competitions themselves.


Hyacinthe, a Canadian sprinter, participated in the 2009 Summer Universiade in Belgrade, 2011 in Shenzhen, and 2013 in Kazan, winning two gold medals and making lifelong memories in the process. She still recalls the culture shock she experienced in Serbia.


“It was a very different experience than what I had expected,” she said. “We could still see buildings with bullet holes and buildings that had been blown up. It opened my eyes to a different part of the world. It was a learning experience.”


Shenzhen too, was memorable because of the fans.


“In China, the stands were crazy full. People were taking pictures and everything," said Hyacinthe. 


“China, Russia, Serbia… they’re all countries that I never thought I would actually go to. They aren’t Western, they’re totally different cultures. I always try to go to at least one site and visit one cultural place, while at these tournaments.”


In Belgrade, Hyacinthe was part of the Canadian 4x400-metre relay team that took home the gold medal. She didn’t hit the podium in Shenzhen, but struck gold again Kazan, this time in the 200 metres.


kimberly hyacintheKimberley Hyacinthe. Photo courtesy: Team CanadaMany athletes remark that the World University Games are enjoyable because of the team-friendly atmosphere and bonding, something Hyacinthe also felt.


“They’re fun,” she said. “It’s cool to have other people around. It’s a big team environment, everyone’s rooting for each other and watching each other play and run. There’s a bigger sense of camaraderie.”


Growing up in Quebec, Hyacinthe got into track and field through another sport.


“Basketball was my first love,” she said. “One of my friends on the court said that I was really fast. She said we should go do track and field trials at our school.”


The best part? Hyacinthe got to skip school for the trials.


“I was like, ‘Say no more,’” she laughed. “I won a couple of races so I thought, okay this is cool. I like this. That’s basically how I started in track.”


Hyacinthe first represented Canada at the 2005 IAAF World Youth Championships, running in the 100 and 200 metres. Hyacinthe then went on to a decorated career at the Université de Québec à Montréal, competing in U SPORTS while studying marketing and speaking at schools to encourage kids to be physically active.


Since completing her university sport career, Hyacinthe has competed at the Commonwealth Games, IAAF events, and the World Championships. She was named in Canada’s 2016 Summer Olympics team in Rio de Janeiro, but had to withdraw due to injury.


Still, the World University Games hold a special place in her heart.


“They were amazing,” she said.