Olympic track star killed in high-speed car crash

Olympic track star killed in high-speed car crash
Sep 11, 06
By The Vancouver Sun
Former SFU track star killed in high-speed car crash
by Chad Skelton
(with files by Andrew Duffy, CanWest News)
(reprinted from The Vancouver Sun)
September 11, 2006

A Vancouver Sun Run champion and Simon Fraser University track star was killed in a high-speed crash near Ottawa on Saturday.

Emilie Mondor, 25, who represented Canada in the 5,000-metres at the 2004 Olympics Games in Athens, recently sold her condo in B.C. and moved to Gatineau, Que. to begin training in a new discipline -- the marathon -- with renowned Ottawa track coach Ken Parker.

Mondor transferred to SFU from Montreal's McGill University in 2001 and went on to win back-to-back cross-country intercollegiate championships in 2001 and 2002.

"She was from Montreal, so the winters were pretty harsh," said Brit Townsend, head track and field coach at SFU. "She came out here for the environment, the climate, the scenery. . . . She loved B.C."

Townsend said Mondor was an incredibly dedicated runner.

"She just had something deep inside her. It was really the core of her being to be the absolute best that she could be in her running," she said. "I would say she's the top long-distance runner in Canada.

"It's a huge loss."

After signing a deal with Adidas near the end of her second year, Mondor was no longer able to compete for SFU, but she continued to study there and train in B.C.

She was the top female runner in the 2004 Vancouver Sun Run.

Mike Lonergan, who coached Mondor from 2000 to 2004, said her strength was long-distance running and he thinks that, in time, she would have been a world-class marathon runner.

"I think the marathon ultimately would have been her best [sport]," he said.

Lonergan said long-distance runners have long careers and often don't peak until their 30s -- meaning Mondor's best years were likely still ahead of her.

Both Townsend and Lonergan said Mondor was a very generous person, regularly speaking to high school students and mentoring younger runners.

"Being able to speak to kids and try to motivate and encourage them -- she loved it," said Townsend.

Mondor's goal was to compete in the marathon at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

"It's such a tragic loss," said Parker, founder and coach of the Ottawa Athletic Club Racing Team.

"She was so young, so full of life and running. She was embarking on something new and challenging in which she had great hopes and aspirations. In my mind, she was almost guaranteed to succeed at it. It's a shame."

According to the Ontario Provincial Police, Mondor lost control of her car after passing two other vehicles at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

She was ejected from her 2004 Hyundai coupe as it rolled into a forested area beyond the highway's shoulder, near Hawkesbury, Ont. Her car was travelling with such force, police said, it "cut down" trees in its path.

Critically injured, Mondor was airlifted to the Ottawa Civic Hospital, where she died hours later.

Her father, Francois, described his daughter as an intense and dedicated athlete who always involved her family in the drama of her life and athletic career.

"She was a girl who when she engaged a goal, she made all efforts to succeed. She did that always," he said Saturday.

Mondor's tragic death comes just months after she had launched a remarkable comeback that underscored her drive and determination.

She had been one of the world's premier distance runners in 2004, finishing 17th in the 5,000 metres in the Athens Olympic Games.

But her ascendant career was stropped in its tracks in late 2004 when she suffered what would become the first in a series of five stress fractures. She was eventually diagnosed with a rare medical condition that inhibited her body's absorption of calcium. Her bones deteriorated and she developed osteoporosis.

For more than a year, her competitive career was in limbo.

Then, in February, Mondor began a course of treatment with an experimental drug, Forteo, that allowed her to increase the intensity of her training.

She decided to abandon the track discipline that had brought her international success to concentrate on the marathon.

Mondor was scheduled to fly to Philadelphia next weekend for a half marathon, but she was particularly excited about the prospect of competing in her first full marathon in New York City in November, Parker said.

Members of the Hawkesbury police detachment continue to probe the crash that took Mondor's life, but investigators said Saturday they believe "speed was a contributing factor" to the tragedy.

cskelton@png.canwest.com

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© The Vancouver Sun 2006