Since breaking Bruce Kidd’s Canadian under-20 5,000m record, Justyn Knight has shown that he is indeed poised for greatness. The 20-year-old Torontonian is now in his third year on a scholarship at Syracuse University, and is dominating the NCAA, finishing second at its 2016 cross-country championships.
This spring, Knight improved his 5,000m best to 13:17.51, making himself eligible for selection to the 2017 IAAF World Championships in August. His Payton Jordan Invitational performance at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. stands as the fourth-fastest men’s 5,000m collegiate time in history. After finishing runner-up in the men’s 3,000m at the NCAA Division One Indoor Track Championships in the winter, Knight is poised to win his first individual American university title on Friday evening. The NCAA Division One Outdoor Track Championships men’s 5,000m, in which Knight is a favourite, goes off at 10:25 p.m. EDT from Eugene, Ore.
Get to know the 20-year-old a better with this Q&A with Knight from earlier this year.
What would you say are your defining characteristics as a runner?
I know that I have to be confident in my ability to compete with others and also patient and not try and rush things. I take a lot of pride in hard work.
What do you admire most in another runner?
I admire the runner who’s a hard worker and refuses to give up no matter what challenge they’re facing. You don’t have to win everything but as long as you give it your all, there’s nothing to be disappointed about.
What is your idea of happiness?
My idea of happiness is living life comfortably with the people I love. As long as my family and I are living life comfortably, there’s nothing more I can ask for.
Who are your athletic heroes?
I looked up to Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson growing up. Michael was, and still is, a role model in my life. His work ethic and passion for basketball is something I’ve always looked up to. I try to model the way I practice the same way he would. The path may not be easy but it’s worth travelling. I looked up to Iverson for many different reasons. For one, I thought he was an amazing ball player. But also brought his own swagger and personality to the game. He showed me that you can be loved for what you do in your sport, but you can also gain love from being yourself and staying true to your personality.
Where would you like to live?
After I graduate college I will live anywhere running takes me, whether it be Canada, America or somewhere else. When that’s all done I would love to return back home to Toronto. But if I could pick anywhere in the world to live, Australia would definitely be in the conversation.
What is your greatest running-related regret?
Probably staying up until 3 a.m. trying to download Drake’s Views album knowing I was attempting to run the Olympic standard [in 2016] in the 5K two days later!
What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is just not being successful in life.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would like to be less of a procrastinator.
What’s one thing you can’t live without?
My family. They’re my backbone. They’ve always expressed love and support for me through my ups and downs. A lot of my success today is because of them. My parents have made multiple sacrifices to make sure my brother and I were given an equal opportunity in the world to chase our dreams. Everything I do is for them. Working hard and succeeding in life is not just for me, but is a way of saying thank you to them for everything they’ve done.
What is your motto?
“I hate to lose more than they love to win; that’s the difference between me and them.”
This Q&A originally appeared in the January & February 2017 issue of Canadian Running.