Kat Surin hopes to follow in her father’s Olympic footsteps

VANCOUVER — As a kid, Kat Surin never really thought her father was that different than the other dads.

Surin was just six months old when Bruny Surin was part of the gold medal-winning Canadian 4×100-metre relay team at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. Growing up, she remembers her father leaving to go on trips.

“I understood he was going away for competitions and stuff,” the native of St. Jerome, Que., said Wednesday. “I thought every father was like that.

“When I started school, people started saying ‘You’re Bruny’s daughter.”’

Bruny Surin will be in the crowd Thursday night when his daughter competes in the 400 metres at the Harry Jerome International Track Classic. Besides winning the race, Kat Surin hopes to reach the standard of 51.8 seconds needed to qualify to compete at the world track and field championships, which will begin Sept. 27 in Doha, Qatar.

“I think I can run a 51 low,” said the 23-year-old, who recently graduated from the University of Connecticut. “It’s just a matter of executing my race. The 400 is hard mentally and physically. I just have to get there.”

The Canadian women’s 400-metre record is 49.91 seconds, first set by Marita Payne at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and matched by Jillian Richardson at the 1988 Games in Seoul.

Canada is currently deep in 400-metre women’s athletes with seven or eight vying for spots on the world championship team.

“A few years ago, 52 seconds would have got you to world championships,” said Surin, whose personal best time is 52.44 seconds. “Now everyone is running 52 seconds.

“It’s going to be a fast race. It’s an opportunity for me to run a (personal best) so I’m excited.”

This year’s Jerome International has attracted over 200 athletes and has $40,000 in prize money.

Also competing will be sprinter Aaron Brown, a member of Canada’s bronze medal 4×100-metre relay team at the 2016 Rio Olympics Canadian long jumper Christabel Nettey, a gold medallist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2015 Pan American Games and American Lynna Irby, the NCAA 400-metre champion.

Canadian Melissa Bishop, who hopes to qualify for the world championships in the 800 metres after having a baby last summer, withdrew from the meet due to a hamstring injury.

Surin began her college career at the University of Nevada then transferred to UConn. After struggling through injuries, she enjoyed a strong 2019 season, winning the 400 metres in both the indoor and outdoor American championships.

Surin credits new UConn coach Jarius Cooper for her improvement.

“Last year was a rough year for me,” she said. “I wasn’t competing well even though I was trying my hardest. Then I had a new coach this year and everything changed.

“He’s a lot more positive, he listens to me a lot more. His training plans are different. I work harder but it’s worth it.”

Bruny Surin said his daughter often resisted any advice he offered when she was young.

“At first, she didn’t listen to me,” he said. “I was the dad and I didn’t know what I was talking about. It’s only a year ago she started asking me questions. Three months ago, I went to visit her and the way she was talking to me about the race (I thought) she was ready.

“The times she’s running now, more and more she knows her potential.”

Being the daughter of an Olympic champion doesn’t weigh on Kat.

“Whenever I compete, my mind is clear,” she said. “I’m my own person.

“Every time he comes to the track, I (set a personal best) so he’s my lucky charm. I don’t feel any pressure at all.”

Like any father, Bruny Surin would be proud to watch his daughter race at the Olympics.

“That would be amazing,” he said. “I want her to succeed.

“The one thing I always tell her, do your best, work hard. As long as you try your best, I’m going to be proud of you.”

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