Levins from Black Creek and Wodak from Harriers Club named to Olymp marathon team

A lot of time and turmoil has passed, but nearly a decade after his Olympic debut on the track at London in 2012, Islander Cam Levins is returning for the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer on the road.

“It’s been a long road to make it back to representing Team Canada at the Olympics — nine years later,” the runner from Black Creek tweeted Friday.

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Also named by Athletics Canada to the marathon team for the Tokyo Olympics is Natasha Wodak, the North Vancouver native who runs for the Prairie Inn Harriers and has won the Saanich Peninsula Pioneer 8K seven times and also the Royal Victoria Half-Marathon.

Wodak was an unaffiliated and unheralded runner at the B.C. cross-country championship about a decade ago when the Harriers saw potential and asked her to join them, leading to six consecutive provincial titles for the Island club.

“They were there when I started. It’s been a great continuing connection with the Harriers,” said Wodak, 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games finalist and 2019 Lima Pan Am Games gold medallist in the 10,000 metres.

Wodak and Levins are both going from the Olympic track to the road. Former NCAA-champion Levins made the finals of the men’s 5,000 and 10,000 metres at London 2012 and Wodak ran the women’s 10,000 metres at Rio 2016.

Joining Levins on the Canadian men’s marathon team will be Trevor Hofbauer of Calgary and Ben Preisner of Milton, Ont. Joining Wodak on the women’s team is Malindi Elmore of Kelowna and Dayna Pidhoresky of Tecumseh, Ont. Pidhoresky was the back-to-back winner of the Times Colonist 10K in 2017 and 2018.

Elmore’s track-to-road journney goes back further than those of Levins or Wodak. Elmore, who was second in the women’s 2019 Times Colonist 10K, represented Canada in the 1,500 metres at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

“I am honoured to be among this fierce marathon team,” said Levins, the former cross-country runner out of G.P. Vanier Secondary in Courtenay.

It is certainly a veteran squad. Levins is 32, Wodak 39 and Elmore 41.

Levins won the bronze medal in the 10,000 metres at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games but a tendon tear and surgery kept him out of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Then came his switch to the road and his stunning debut marathon, in which Levins broke Jerome Drayton’s hallowed four-decade plus former Canadian record of 2:10:09, set in 1975 in Fukuoka, Japan, by clocking 2:09:25 in 2018 in Toronto.

Levins, who married wife Elizabeth on the grounds of St. Ann’s Academy in Victoria on Canada Day in 2013, is now based in Portland, Oregon, and coached by Jim Finlayson of Victoria.

Levins did not make Olympic standard until his last-gasp attempt last month just before the deadline date.

“I am so pumped about this group of athletes. They chose the ‘suffer’ events and make them look easy,” said Olympic triple gold-medallist rower Marnie McBean, chef de mission for the Canadian team to the Tokyo Olympics.

“Many of their recent results have been a beacon of light for the whole of Team Canada.

“In the absence of a multitude of competitions, the results of their training have been extraordinary.”

The Tokyo Olympic women’s marathon is on Aug. 7 and the men’s marathon on the final day of the Games on Aug 8.

Both are being run in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo to escape Tokyo’s sapping summer temperatures.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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