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Q and A: Sasha Gollish

Sasha Gollish and  Gabriela Stafford
credit: GEOFF ROBINS/ Mundo Sport Images

Sasha Gollish was the Canadian Interuniversity Sport rookie of the year in 2000. She’s been in some way connected with the University of Toronto Track and Field club for 20 years.

Over the weekend, Gollish medalled in five events at the recent CIS track and field championships. We caught up with the 33-year-old to talk about where she’s been while not racing, her PhD and drug allegations.

Canadian Running: You were in the CIS a while back and then you were gone for awhile. What’s been going on with you?

Sasha Gollish: I graduated, moved in with a boy and the boy introduced my to ultimate frisbee. I attest a lot of my speed and endurance in coming back to ultimate frisbee, particularly those 40-degree summer nights when you would play savage and you didn’t even always get a water break, you don’t recover between points. They were just the most gruelling workouts. I think that’s when I really started to get fit again and it was when I started to run again.

At the same time, around then I actually bought a road bike. I remember being really injured and not ever wanting to be that injured again, thinking one of the best ways around this was to take some of my endurance and enjoy southern Ontario countryside on my road bike, which naturally led to duathlons and I was a national duathlon champion for a couple years. I went to world duathlon championships a couple of times.

When I was younger I had this goal of running sub-2:10 in the 800m, which I think is what a lot of girls strive for. I came back one summer and wasn’t really training too seriously and ran 2:10 again and again and again. Then, last spring, I thought “OK, I’ll run Harry’s Spring Run-Off and see what I’ve got in me.”

CR: And last fall you got back with the UofT team?

SG: Coaching is one of my passions in life, working with young kids, being out in the elements, sort of really enjoying the young, spirited kids. Through that time I actually worked through the [National Coaching Certification Program] course and just this spring I graduated with what’s formally known as Level 4 but is the advanced coaching diploma. When I finished it I asked “what’s next?” And I didn’t really know. Someone from the Faculty of Engineering called me and said “Hey, we’ve got this great new program called Engineering Education. Would you be interested?” It was kind of one of those “Ah-ha!” moments.

So I had this eligibility and I sat down with [University if Toronto coaches] Ross Risstuccia and Carl Georgevski and they said “we’d love for you to run and try to win a team banner.” And I said “that sounds like a really fun idea.”

CR: Give us a quick rundown of the PhD you’re working on.

SG: The idea is to make mathematics more engaging. There’s this disconnect between mathematics and engineering where math is generally taught by the math department, not by engineer. You don’t relate it back to engineering and students kind of view it as “I just have to survive this course and then I can forget it all.”

Math is the basis for almost every engineering decision that you make and, at the end of the day, almost any decision that most people make. We should be doing a better job of motivating our students to really love what they do. They come in loving math and science and we almost burn them out. We shouldn’t be doing that.

CR: You’ve been accused by some of having results that reflect performance-enhancing drug use. What do you say to that?

SG: Aside from testing me, all I can say is that I don’t use PEDs.

One of the other hats I wear is that I am on the Ontario Cycling Association board of directors and I lead the initiative for anti-doping policy and I stay on top of what WADA is doing and CCES and there’s nothing in it for me in using PEDs. I’ve got this great career. I run for fun. There’s no place for them in my life.

I really love cycling. There’s all these really cool races and unknown riders win them, but cycling is a sport that is marred by drugs. It’s so unfortunate because I think people are reluctant to get into it now, so they just have no place in sport for me.

CR: What do you do after such a busy weekend?

SG: I actually jumped on my bike yesterday and went for a lovely ride on the Don Valley trail. I’ll take a couple days off but I’m really hoping to get down to California in April. I’d really like to run a 5,000m but it’s tough when you don’t have a 5,000m seed time. I’ll also run some 1,500m and 800m down there.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.