Sarah Wells: From Student-Athlete to Role Model

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Jan 19, 2015

Source: Kelcey Wright (CAN), FISU U-Media Reporter

TORONTO – She’s competed at the FISU Games. She’s competed at the Olympics. She’s got a life-size poster of herself up in a Nike store. And after all that, she’s just now graduated from university.

As far as student-athletes go, Sarah Wells has done everything backwards.

“[It’s amazing to] know you have an incredible Canadian support network rooting for you,” she said.

When Wells first joined her high school track team, she did it to gain a few extra friends.

Little did she know, she would soon be representing her country on the track as a 400 meter hurdler and would win three national championships, two FISU medals and compete at the 2012 London Olympics.

“I think of all the incredible people who have helped me get to where I am today,” said the 25-year-old. “I know, I’m not just running for myself, or the Canadian flag, but for those people who made huge impacts in my life.”

But Wells knows that as track and field is a career for her now, she also has to set up a sturdy future for herself once she decides to retire from athletics.

“Since track and field isn’t going to be my career forever, I knew it was important to focus on my studies so I could have a life after track,” said Wells, who recently graduated from the prestigious University of Toronto. “Once I graduated, I realized how thankful I was to have a support network who encouraged me to be better in both my academics and athletics.”

And shortly after competing at the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia, Wells got a short taste of what life is like without track when she was side-lined for the second time due to a repeated stress fracture in her femur.

“I was out for six months,” she said. “So recently I’ve only just been getting back into training and getting ready. Up next is the Pan Am Games where I would like to be a competitive for a medal.”

The Pan Am Games are held every four years in the years preceding Olympic years and it is the third largest multi-sport event in the world.

This year, the Games are being held in Wells’ home of Toronto and she has been a major part in preparing the city to host the event.

A photo of Wells and her teammates was on the front cover of the Toronto Star when they surprised local streetcar passengers with a special message.

“They stuck 10 athletes on a streetcar and had it run its normal service down Queen Street and picked up passengers,” she said. “When the passengers entered they were shocked to see all the athletes and media, so we were able to tell them what we were about and get them excited to host such a big games here at home.”

Recently, not only has Wells graduated university and began training for the Pan Am Games, she has also co-founded an initiative to help young girls become as successful as her.

“It’s called the Fearless Action Challenge,” she said. “It’s a programme that helps young girls learn to live in a kinder girl-world by living fearlessly by standing up to peer pressure, becoming leaders, and using physical activity as a vehicle to do so.”

Wells says one of the most important skills to encourage to young girls is gaining confidence because it’s one of the hardest traits to hone growing up.

“Confidence is certainly something that needs constant upkeep,” said Wells. “I can’t deny that I’ve had moments where I’ve lost my confidence, even after all my success.”

But Wells has many accomplishments to help keep her head held high; on top of her athletic career, she’s graduated with a degree in Health and Sciences from one of the top schools in country and now has the opportunity to hopefully compete in the Olympics again in 2016.

“[I just hope I can] give back to the sport and the environment that has given me so much!”

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