CALGARY — Sam Effah wants to remind Canadians he’s the fastest man in the country.
The 22-year-old sprinter ran a 100 metres in 10.06 less than a year ago in Florida, which was the fourth-fastest ever by a Canadian. Effah followed that up by winning his first Canadian title in 10.21 a few weeks later.
A quadricep injury stemming from the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, last October forced him to dial down his races during the indoor winter season.
“I need to get back to where I was last year and it’s been a long battle, but I think I’m back,” Effah says.
On the eve of this week’s Canadian track and field championships, Effah went to his barber and had intricate curlicues shaved into the hair on one side of his head.
“I said ‘what will make me run fast?”’ Effah said.
“He said ’this will make you look fast’ and I let him go for it.”
Effah sees the national championships in his hometown of Calgary as a place where he can re-launch his aspirations to break the 10-second barrier.
“My goals for the season are to defend my title and then after that just run fast times,” Effah said as he prepared for Thursday’s semifinal. The final is Friday.
Three years ago, Effah (pronounced EH-fah) didn’t have enough money to travel to international meets. A fundraiser organized by his neighbours allowed him to race in a regional under-23 event in 2009. That was same race Effah ran the 10.06 in a year later in Miramar, Fla.
Effah now gets financial support from Own The Podium, which distributes government money to athletes with medal potential, and B2Ten, a privately-funded charitable organization that connects the business community with athletes as donors and mentors. Effah is considered a medal contender possibly for 2012, but more realistically for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
He can now afford the services of therapists, nutritionists and physiologists at the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary to keep his body sound.
“We finally have honed in on a group of people who understand his body,” says Effah’s coach Brenda Van Tighem. “Now that we’ve got this, we hope to be consistent.
“Sam’s such a great guy. It’s easy to want to help him, so I think we’re moving forward in the right direction. How he does this summer sets up for London.”
Van Tighem has coached Effah since he graduated from Calgary’s Sir Winston Churchill High School and began running for the University of Calgary Dinos.
Effah ran a 10.15 and 10.16 in the qualifying rounds at the Commonwealth Games, but his starting block slipped in the final and he ended up seventh in 10.37. He also tweaked his leg and it became a problem he had to manage throughout the winter.
He ran the fastest 50 metres of his life, and the fastest in the world this year, in 5.67 in February.
Effah concluded his university career with his fourth straight award for the CIS track and field athlete of the year. But he had to withdraw midway through the CIS championship in March because he re-injured his quadricep running the 60.
“He had two really solid runs at Commonwealth Games, which was an indicator he arrived at another level,” Canadian Olympic coach Alex Gardiner said. “The unfortunate block slip put him into seventh position and probably started the whole injury chain of problems.
“He needs to feel his way back cautiously this summer to get back into that sub-10.20 range consistently. And then he’s got to work towards London and, really, towards Rio as well. He needs seasoning, needs more races and needs to make sure he’s healthy. He’s still finding out how to use his body.”
The Canadian championships determines which athletes represent Canada at the world championships Aug. 27 to Sept. 4 in Daegu, South Korea, the Pan American Games and Parapanamerican Games in Guadalajara, Mexico later this year, and the FISU (World University) Games in Shenzhen, China, in August.