South Hazelton athlete Regan Yee heading to Tokyo Olympics.

Regan Yee photo

An athlete from South Hazelton will be competing in the Tokyo Olympics later this month.

25-year-old endurance runner Regan Yee qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in late June, when she ran the women's 3000-metre steeplechase in 9 minutes and 27.54 seconds at the Classique D'athlétisme de Montréal.

Not only did this time immediately qualify her for the competition – the qualifying time for the Olympics is 9:30:00 – but she also broke a Canadian record by over two seconds.

"I saw the clock when I crossed the finish line and immediately just threw my hands in the air and was smiling and laughing," she said. "[I] burst into tears at one point. There's just so many emotions. You're also exhausted from the race, so it's hard to process right away. But yeah, it was a pretty incredible moment."

Yee even admits that she threw up after she finished the race.

“That, funnily enough, has been one of my goals for a long time – to run so hard in a race that I throw up,” she said. “That's a sign that you really gave it your all.”

Yee isn't the only athlete from the Hazelton area to qualify for the Olympics. Lyndsay Belisle competed in women's wrestling at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and Carol Huynh took home both a gold medal in women's wrestling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics.

Yee says it's an honour to carry the torch for Hazelton.

"I'm following in the footsteps of two other Hazleton Olympians: Carolyn Huynh and Lyndsay Belisle. I've always had those role models that showed me you could do anything that you want, and you can make it all the way to the Olympic Games. It's an honour – the community has been extremely supportive, so I'm feeling pretty grateful that I'm from such an awesome community."

The Tokyo Olympics are set to start on July 28th. Yee says she’s excited for the games, even if she’s also a little nervous.

“I raced at the World Championships in 2019 and that was just totally overwhelming for me. You can mentally prepare all you want for a championship like that, but until you're actually there in that environment and experiencing all those emotions, it's really hard to learn how to deal with that.

"So now that I have at least one experience under my belt like that, I think I'll be able to manage my excitement and anxiety a little bit better at the Olympics, and hopefully I can stick to my race plan and execute it.”

Photo source: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press.