Series25 Jul 2016

First impressions – Melissa Bishop


Melissa Bishop after taking silver in the 800m at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)

Melissa Bishop is among the world’s top 800m runners. Here the Canadian, who last year claimed World Championship silver and Pan American Games gold in her speciality event, thinks long and hard about our first impressions questions.

First athletics competition

I competed for my high school as a grade six student in a country meet up against four or five other high schools. It was on a dirt track and I competed in the 100m, 200m, 400m, long jump, triple jump, high jump and maybe some relays. I remember before I was due to line up for the 100m my grandma said to me, ‘When you are on the start line think of a really fast car waiting for you at the end.’ So I told her a red Corvette and she replied, ‘If you finish the race, you will get the red Corvette.’ After I finished the race she said to me, ‘I was going to give you a red Corvette balloon but it has floated away.’ We both had a laugh about this and then I moved on to my next event.

First coach

His name was Steve Newman. He was a distance runner from my local area. I can’t recall how we were introduced, but I met with Steve once a week and he took me to Ottawa Lions twilight meets every Wednesday, which is how I first got a feel for the atmosphere around the track.

First sport

It was soccer. I wasn’t a superstar player, but I think I stood out because I was quick. I played throughout elementary school. Looking back playing soccer was huge because it gave me endurance and strength for track. If I hadn’t have played soccer, I don’t think I would have ever found out I could run.

First international medal

That was the 2013 Francophone Games in Nice. I was there to compete and I knew my chances of winning a medal were pretty high. Nice was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen. I was very relaxed and I knew because the event was held in mid-September it was the last ‘kick of the can’ before we get a break. It was a big boost in confidence to win a bronze medal in the 800m.

First athletics disappointment

It was the 2012 London Olympics when I failed to get through my first-round heat. I just assumed I would qualify and when I didn’t it was a huge upset. At the time I’d had just broken through on the international scene, the race was extremely slow and I didn’t have any sense of how to handle that. I had not been prepared for the worst case scenario. It took until the end of all that year until I could put it behind me.

First media interview

A local newspaper reporter called Terry interviewed me after I won a silver medal at my high school provincial cross country championships. Terry has now become a very good friend of the family. I always tell him he has first dibs on my stories. My local paper at home has a very special place in my heart and he still interviews me to this day. He knows my story through and through and he has a way of writing my stories that genuinely sounds like me.

First fashion disaster

When I was at high school the velour soft suits were in fashion, although my mother would never allow me to put it in my closet as an investment piece. However, I often used to borrow a pink coloured one with bell bottoms that my friends had. I don’t know what I was thinking!

First piece of clothing ever bought

I saved up all my money for a ski trip in Quebec to buy a souvenir. I bought a pullover green and white coloured fleece, but I was shocked at the amount of money I paid for the item because I had spent all the money I’d saved up! It did last for many years, so over time it was a good purchase.

First thing learned to cook

It was spaghetti bolognese. My mother left out the ground beef and spaghetti to cook from at the time I was first old enough to stay home alone. She left a little note for me on how to cook it.

First ever toy

It was my first bike. It was pink-coloured with training wheels at the back. It was a very girlie bike with cheerleader pom poms strings attached to the end of the handlebars. I eventually learned to ride this bike on two wheels and I had my first ever fall on that bike.

First movie that made you cry

The Fox and the Hound cartoon. It is so sad when the dog dies.

Steve Landells for the IAAF