When Luc Bruchet took off from the start line during the men’s 5,000-m race in Rio de Janeiro Wednesday morning, he had quite a cheering section a few thousand miles north.
A handful of his former Peninsula Runners colleagues – including store founder Paul Williams, a past Olympian himself – gathered early Wednesday at the home of Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg to watch the 26-year-old South Surrey runner make his Olympic debut.
And though the preliminary heat did not go as planned for Bruchet – he finished 19th in his heat, in a time of 14 minutes, 2.02 seconds and did not qualify for the final – it did little to dampen the spirits of those watching at home.
“It was great that he got to go and experience it, even though he didn’t have the race that he might’ve wanted,” said Williams, a 5,000-m runner himself at three consecutive Olympics beginning with the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
“It was very inspiring too see him there, especially because it’s the 5,000, which is what I used to run.”
Bruchet qualified for the Rio Olympics earlier this summer, when he placed second in Canadian qualifiers behind Mohammed Ahmed. Ahmed ran the second 5,000-m heat immediately after Bruchet’s race Wednesday, and qualified for Saturday evening’s final after placing sixth.
Bruchet’s personal-best time in the 5,000-m race is listed at 13:24.10 – achieved last June at the Portland Track Festival – which leads Williams to believe that he was perhaps not 100 per cent for Wednesday morning’s race.
“Maybe he wasn’t feeling well – usually he’s in that lead group. But when it’s your first Olympics, you can get a little nervous. You don’t quite know what to expect,” he said.
The competition was extremely tough, too – Bruchet’s heat included defending Olympic gold-medallist Mo Farah of Great Britian as well as Bernard Lagat, who finished fourth in London.
The heat was won by Ethiopian runner Hagos Gebrhiwet, in 13:24.65.
Bruchet is the first Olympian to come from South Surrey/White Rock-based Ocean Athletics, which was formed in 2006.
“It’s very exciting to see somebody from Ocean Athletics make it all the way to the Olympics, and it just confirms that there’s a lot of talent (on the Semiahmoo Peninsula),” said Williams.
“It’s a great accomplishment… absolutely, we’re proud of him.”