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29 April 2019 | in Summer Universiade, Athletics, FISU Athletes

Remembering Taipei: Canadian sprinter Leah Walkeden reminisces on and Summer Universiades 2015 and 2017

Track and field athlete Leah Walkeden hails from Ardrossan, Alberta, a small town in Northern Canada of only a few hundred inhabitants. In August 2017, however, she found herself in a Taipei City, a bustling metropolis of nearly three million.

  

Walkaden competed for Canada at the Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade, where she ran the quarterfinals of the women’s 100 metre sprint in 11.93 seconds to place 20th.

 

“Taipei was awesome,” she said.

  

She was surprised by many things that summer, including the climate.

 

“I wasn’t expecting it to be so hot and humid in Taipei,” she said. “I was in Côte d’Ivoire earlier that summer in July for the Francophone Games, and Taipei was hotter than Africa. Warming up for my races in Taipei was really tough in the heat, and I remember our first training session on the track when we arrived, I spent most of the time with a bag of ice on my neck so that I didn’t pass out.”

  

Walkeden also competed in Gwangju in 2015. She credits her alma mater, the University of Alberta, for helping her achieve her athletic goals.

 

“When our program was reset, the team became a more elite environment and eventually through the years, we built up some really great athletes,” she said. “We were doing things as a team that hadn’t been done in years. I am so proud to have stayed in my home city and was part of the rebuilding of the program that has won conference team titles and put the U of A back on the scene in Canadian track and field.”

 
Leah relaxing at the Universiade Village during Summer Universiade 2019
 

Being a student athlete involves juggling classes and practices, something that Walkeden became an expert at.

 

“In my first three years of school, I lived with my parents,” she said. “They live a 45 to 60 minute drive from campus depending on traffic, and that made my days tough. Being able to juggle having to spend a lot of time in the car with going to class, studying, training, and recovering from practice was pretty tough. I managed to do it all but looking back, I’m impressed with how I time managed and was able to get through it.”

  

“I also had a part time job all through university. Every day that I did not have classes, I picked up a shift at work. I didn’t have a lot of down time though university, but I needed money to be able to go on trips for track and to pay for any expenses that would come up.”

 
Leah first competed in the Summer Universiade at Gwangju, South Korea in 2015

 

Now having completed her studies, Walkeden refers to herself as “semi-professional athlete.” She sews and creates custom makeup bags while competing in various meets around the province.

 

Walkeden hasn’t shut the door entirely on returning to university competition.

  

“I still have a year left of eligibility for track if I ever decide to go back to school for my masters and want to run again,” she said.

 

 

By Salim Valji, U-Media Reporter and FISU Young Reporter Programme alumni

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