Julie-Anne Staehli ready to represent Lucknow, Ont. at Tokyo Olympics

When the Tokyo Olympics begin, there will be 14 athletes competing with ties to the London, Ont. area.

One of them is Julie-Anne Staehli, who went from outsider, to lock with a brilliant running season. She shaved off 50 seconds from her personal best in the 5000 metres since the start of this race season.

That included achieving the Olympic Standard of 15:10 when she ran 15:02 in May.

"I knew I had positioned myself to qualify, but once you see your name written on the list, then it just becomes very real," says Julie-Anne Staehli, a Lucknow, Ont. native now living in London.

"You realize that this thing that you've been kind of dreaming up and it's actually happening".

Staehli is currently training in Flagstaff, Ariz. where Athletics Canada is holding a camp to prepare for the games. The extreme heat and 7000 foot altitude are good preparation to ease into what is going to be scorching temperatures in Japan.

When her race begin July 30, it is expected to be 35 degrees Celsius.

"Because it's going to be so hot, it's going to be a tactical race and I and I don't think it's going to take much under 15 minutes to qualify for the for the finals. It will be interesting to see what it's going to take to win the 5000 meters this year . I think I'm just really excited to see and compete on that level."

No matter the results in her first Olympics, her hometown will be cheering her on. She's from Ashfield–Colborne–Wawanosh (ACW) Township just outside Lucknow, and the community is scrambling to decide how to honour her with signage or celebrations.

"Due to the recent news, there is a flurry of conversation happening," says Glen McNeil, mayor of ACW and warden of Huron County.

"It's huge news for our region, and the first thing is to verbally show the support to her. We look forward to those conversations to determine how to show our support."

After finishing her teaching degree at Western University, she's living in London and helping as an assistant coach with the Western Mustangs cross-country team. She had a three-to-five-year plan which included becoming a teacher, but her recent success has meant the 27-year-old, will put those plans on hold.

"Looking ahead, the next Olympic cycle is in Paris in 2024 so it's just three years now," says Staehli.

"Teaching is something that I can do for for a long time but performing at this level may only come up every so often. Especially during 2020, that has become very clear you need to take every moment and every kind of chance I have at these games and make sure that I make the most of this opportunity because there's no guarantees in the sport."

Other London area athletes competing for Canada:

  • Susanne Grainger (London)- Rowing
  • Nick Wammes (Bothwell) - Cycling- Track
  • Alysha Newman- (Delaware) - Athletics
  • Shelina Zadorsky (London)- Soccer
  • Miranda Ayim (London)- Basketball
  • Margaret MacNeil- (London) Swimming
  • Lucia Stafford (London) Athletics
  • Damian Warner (London) Athletics
  • Gabriela DeBues- Stafford (London) - Athletics
  • Heather Bansley (London) Volleyball
  • Celina Toth (St. Thomas) - Diving
  • Ericka Polidori (London) - Softball
  • Jessie Fleming- (London) Soccer