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American Educated, Canadian Born & Raised: Sage Watson On Her Pan Am Gold & Improving Canada’s Sport System

Sage Watson 400 Metre Hurdles Pan Am Games

American Educated, Canadian Born & Raised: Sage Watson On Her Pan Am Gold & Improving Canada’s Sport System

Sage Watson recently won gold in the women’s 400-metre hurdles for Canada at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Sage Watson is proudly Canadian and has represented Canada on the world stage countless times. Her Olympic debut was at Rio 2016. Sage Watson made it to the 400m hurdles semis and helped Canada finish fourth in the 4x400m relay event.

Sage Watson’s athletic journey has taken her around the world. It’s a constant travel schedule for her and a recent Instagram post portrays this:

“Time to get back in the racing blocks! Headed to Europe today to get a few more races in before world championships next month. After my last 40 day trip it was nice to get back to AZ to train and refresh. Now I’m ready to get back competing✈️⁣”

Sage Watson’s Instagram post on August 24, 2019

One of those great things she just did. We chatted with Sage Watson all the way from Europe as she continues to prepare for the upcoming IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. She talks to us about her recent Pan Am victory, American education, the perfect hurdle, difficulties being an elite athlete, and more. Enjoy!

Please note: This interview was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the essence of the interview.

Tell us about winning the gold medal recently. How did it feel?

It was amazing to win a gold for Canada at the Pan American Games. It was my first individual international senior medal, so I was really happy. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes of what I do as a professional athlete, so it was great to finally show that work on the track.

Why did you decide to go to the University of Arizona for your education?

I originally went to Florida State University (FSU). Then, after three years I transferred to the University of Arizona, where I received my degree in Business Marketing. Going to an American D1 university allowed me to receive a full-ride scholarship and compete at one of the highest levels in track and field.

In 2017, you were quoted as saying you’ve never had a perfect hurdle. Tell us what a perfect hurdle means to you and do you feel closer to it now than you did then?

I have never had a perfect hurdle race. The 400-metre hurdles are very complex when it comes to rhythm, technique and the overall speed endurance required. I have a pattern I would like to hit every race, but in the race that can change depending on speed, weather conditions and the track.

I always have a plan in my head before I start the race, but am consciously aware while running the plan may need to change depending on those variables.

What are your next steps in your athletic career and for your work career?

My work career is my athletic career right now. I think it’s funny when people ask so what do you want to do for your real job., I am in a real job, it’s just not a typical job. I like to call it my dream job.

As a professional athlete, I am consistently marketing and representing myself for my sponsors. I graduated with honours in Business Marketing and I believe I use that every day in my job and career right now. As for after my running career is finished, I would still love to continue in marketing.

What are your 3 most difficult aspects of being an elite athlete?

1 Being my own boss

As much fun as it is to control my schedule, I am consistently working, training, staying healthy, going to physiotherapy, staying on top of nutrition, and traveling.

2 Being on the road for long periods of time

Being on the road for over 40 days at a time can be exhausting, especially when you are traveling overseas and to a new country every 3 to 7 days. 

3 The pressure of staying healthy and performing on-demand

Your job relies on you being healthy and performing your best. If you aren’t, then you will likely lose out on financial (money) and sponsorship opportunities. 

In your opinion, what can be done to help grow this sport in Canada?

In my opinion, a lot can be done to grow this sport. I believe it needs to start at the high school and university levels.

As of right now, track scholarships in Canada are very difficult to come by. To my knowledge, there are no full-ride scholarships to compete at the university level in Canada for track and field. This funding would need to come from university athletic departments. In the United States, the athletic departments are mainly funded through football, basketball and boosters (donors).

In Canada, our so-called “money” sport is hockey, so I believe if we want track and field to grow in Canada, major junior hockey needs to be owned by the universities and not by individuals. This essentially would adopt a similar style to the NCAA system, allowing school sports to be better funded, increase competition, allow for full-ride athletic scholarships and improve school spirit all around.

I know this is not a popular option, but Canada is far behind the United States when it comes to university student athletic development. University sport is a major stepping stone for a lot of athletes who want to go professional in their sport. So to grow sport in Canada, we need to start by looking at high school and university sports.

Final Thoughts From The Interviewer

Sage Watson is an inspiration for a number of reasons. Our interview with Sage largely focused on her recent gold medal and pursuit of college athletics in the United States. But there is way more to Sage Watson beyond her blossoming track and field career and degree from the University of Arizona. Sage Watson has been active on social media, recently making a couple of posts on self-love and body image.

In the words of Ashton Henderson, Assistant Athletics Director at Florida State University:

“Sage is a very bright and articulate individual who will exceed your expectations in anything you ask her to accomplish. Sage is someone who is dependable, hardworking, and most importantly, respected by all of her peers. She excels academically and athletically. I have been fortunate to work with a cornucopia of student-athletes who I have been extremely impressed with, but Sage certainly is destined for great things. “

One of those great things was her recent 2019 Pan American Games gold medal. The rest continue to trickle in. Be sure to check out Sage Watson’s socials to track how she continues to exceed expectations in sport and in life.

Sage Watson

Interview by Leonardo Roque
Posted September 5, 2019 in Industry Profiles