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Anthony Donnet overcomes hamstring injury to win first OFSAA medal for QE in 42 years
Posted: June 7th, 2014 @ 9:32pm
MISSISSAUGA - One of the things that endears coaches, officials and long-time visitors to the OFSAA track and field meet is the story telling, time spent recounting tales of remarkable results, incredible courage and can-you-believe-it episodes.
Years from now people will be talking about Anthony Donnet.
Anyone who saw him compete Saturday will one day recall that it wasn't just terrific that the young high jumper from Queen Elizabeth Collegiate won a bronze medal. They will talk about how he did so with a hamstring injury so painful, he was unable to walk to his seat between jumps without a pronounced limp.
Then someone will remember that his medal was the first won by an athlete from QE at an Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations track and field meet in at least 42 years - maybe ever.
Yep, everyone will nod. It was quite a thing to see.
"It's hard to put in perspective," QE coach Joanna Belfer said Saturday morning, after Donnet placed third in midget boys high jump, hurting so badly that, with his medal already assured, he declined to make his last jump.
"It's absolutely amazing," Belfer said. "Incredible, not just for him persevering, but for our entire school."
Donnet, who set an East region record (1.81 metres) a week ago, hurt his right leg - his takeoff leg - at practice during the week. "I stretched a cold muscle," he said, and he aggravated it with a poor takeoff on a practice jump. "It was a careless mistake."
Belfer said they did their best to manage the injury but there was no thought of withdrawing from the competition, even though there wasn't much anybody could do on Saturday morning to address the situation. "Wrapping and Advil," Donnet said.
He was over each of the first four heights on his first attempt but the discomfort of each successive jump was clear to see. He went from hobbling after getting off the landing mats, to grabbing his leg, to rolling gingerly off the pit and slowly getting to his feet from the tarmac.
Donnet cleared 1.80 metres on his final attempt and he missed his first two jumps with the bar set at 1.83 metres. At that point, he told the officials he was finished. "I was just done," he said. "It started to hurt too much."
Belfer said it's difficult to know how bad the injury is because Donnet was determined to compete through the pain. "It's pretty bad," she suspects. "He seemed to be in a lot of pain at the end of those jumps."
She said she considered taking the athlete out of the competition "but I know Anthony."
"It was so hard to watch," she said, "but I know his competitive nature and I know even if I had suggested it, he never would have done it."
That was until Donnet could barely get up after his second attempt at 1.83. There were only three athletes left and the other two were over that height with fewer failed attempts. There was almost nothing he could do to improve his position.
"If he hadn't pulled himself (at that point) I was going to pull him," Belfer said. "I thought, 'He can't possibly attempt to jump that again.' We already knew he had a medal and I was going to (take him out of the competition) but he pulled himself.
"That goes to show you how much pain he was in, too, the fact that he would pull himself, because he is so competitive."
An athlete in Donnet's position could look at his fate two ways: Anger at the hand he was dealt at the most inopportune time of the season, or pride in a medal-winning performance that came despite an extremely adverse situation.
"I could have done better," he said. "I'm happy that I got third but I'm a little upset that I could have done better if my hamstring wasn't pulled. I would have at least had a better chance at second."
Belfer said the sentiment is true to Donnet's nature.
"When I first came up to say, 'Congratulations, that was amazing,' the first thing he said to me was, 'I could have done better.' That's his nature - he's never satisfied. That's part of what makes him such a good athlete, that competitive nature and that drive always to do better.
"We're so proud of him. The school's going to be so excited."
To end a medal drought that's been around at least three times longer than he has is "pretty cool," Donnet said, and he vows both to be more careful at practice and to be competing again at OFSAA in a year's time.
"I'll be ready for next year," he said. "I'll be better."
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