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Skinner prepares to lead national IAAF World U20 team in Finland

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Troy Shantz

Local track and field coach Joel Skinner hopes he can bring some Sarnia athletes with him to the World Under 20 Championships this July.

The Great Lakes teacher was recently named to lead the national squad for the IAAF World U20 Championships in Finland.

He’ll oversee dozens of Canadian event coaches, trainers and athletes, and he thinks some Sarnia athletes may have what it takes to make the team.

“I’m probably not going to name any names, just so I don’t put any pressure on them,” he laughed. “On the throws side, we have maybe three or four athletes that may have potential to make the standard.”

Team selection is in April, he said.

The 39-year-old has coached the Sarnia Athletics Southwest Track & Field Club for about a decade, and started coaching right after graduating college nearly 15 years ago. He’s had an opportunity to train many world-champion athletes, he said, including Corunna native and Olympic gold medalist Derek Drouin.

“I’ve certainly lucked out,” Skinner said. “Talent identification is pretty great in Sarnia.”

Skinner also led the under-20 Pan Am track team last year and coached on the 2011 and 2015 Pan Am Games teams.

He said he’s used to the personal role he had as a coach for so many years, and said his new appointment will be a “little bit less of a personal coaching role, and more of a managerial role.”

“Based on prior experience I decided that this is the opportunity that I wanted to attempt to get a hold of, to finally be a head coach,” he added.

With all eyes on him and the athletes this summer, the veteran coach admitted he feels some pressure.

“A lot of people will be relying on me,” he said. “Nerves will come in to play, but I’ll decrease those nerves by being as organized as possible.

“It’s kind of a dream for anybody; it’s a very big honour,” he said. “I only know how to do things one way, and that’s at 100%.”

The Under 20 Championships happen every two years. At the 2016 Games in Poland in 2016, Canada brought home two bronzes – one in the women’s 400 metres hurdles, and another in the four-by-400 metre relay.


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