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Road to Rio: Syracuse Track Alum Jillian Drouin Strives to Join Brother on 2016 Olympic Team

Former Syracuse Track & Field Athlete Jillian Drouin was a multiple time Big East champion. Now she's working to join her brother Derek on the 2016 Canadian Olympic team. Let's catch up with Jillian.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

In the time leading up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio, we are going to try and profile some Syracuse Orange athletes and alums working to make it to the Games. Today we catch up with Jillian Drouin, former Syracuse Track and Field standout.

The 2008 Big East Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Jillian won four Big East individual titles during her Syracuse career, and still holds school records in the high jump, pentathlon, and heptathlon. If Jillian's able to make Canada's Olympic team in the heptathlon, she'd join her brother Derek, reigning World Champion in the High Jump, and 2012 Olympic bronze medal winner.

TNIAAM: How did you first become involved in the heptathlon? Was it something you competed in prior to Syracuse?

Jillian: I had always enjoyed competing in a variety of events (high jump, hurdles, long jump, sprints) throughout high school, so my transition to the heptathlon was fairly natural. Although, I had never tried it before committing to Syracuse, Coach Enoch Borozinski was excited when I mentioned my interest in trying the heptathlon. It was an idea my high school coach, Bob Newman, planted in my head. He and my current coach, Joel Skinner, helped me with a crash course of learning the events I wasn’t familiar with (shot put, javelin, 800m) and fumbling through my first heptathlon in the summer before I began at SU.

TNIAAM: What does the training schedule look like for you now? How would you describe the difference in training from Syracuse to the working towards a spot on the Canadian Olympic Team?

JD: Now that I am done school and working part-time as a chiropractor, my training schedule is much different and very regimented. Once I’m in to full time training, most of my days look very similar: a shorter session in the morning of either weights or cross-training, then to work for a few hours and after work I meet up with my coach for a few hours of technical event training and workouts. I think the biggest difference between my training now compared to my training at Syracuse can be attributed to my years of experience in the events. Then I needed to spend quite a bit of time learning the events, learning how to approach the heptathlon as a whole and learning to become mentally tough. Now, we focus more time on refining my skills, improving my physical strength and on injury prevention/recovery.

TNIAAM: How do you balance a career with this type of training?

JD: I like to think I’ve been training this way all my life by balancing sport with school. Somehow, the balance between working and this level of training is quite different. It still takes the same approach and characteristics (such as extreme organization, time management and prioritization), but focusing on a goal as monumental as the Olympic Games is both mentally and physically exhausting. My work is also quite demanding in a mental and physical sense, so I have decided to put my training and athletic goals first by starting my chiropractic career on a very limited basis.

I work just enough to keep up my skill-set and start developing a patient-base for the time I’m ready to move on from training. I definitely couldn’t get through my day to day without the help and support of my husband and family, which I am lucky to have so close to me. I’ve also learned I need to take some time for myself to recover and recharge my batteries, so I can bring my best self to both my training and career. Unfortunately, this has meant cutting back on some of the volunteer work and community events of which I love being a part, but I know I may have a limited time to pursue this goal and the rest of my life for these other ambitions. Is there an event that you focus more on in terms of your current training? I don’t especially focus more time on a specific event in my training now, but I do spend more time overall focusing on developing my strength. I’m lifting more and heavier than I have in the past, mostly because I now understand my capabilities.

TNIAAM: What would it mean to you to be able to represent Canada in competition, and to do so along with your brother Derek?

JD: I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to represent Canada on many occasions over the years and there’s no better feeling. This summer I donned the Maple Leaf on home soil in Toronto for the Pan American Games and for the first time as teammates with my brother. It was incredible. It’s very hard to describe the joy and excitement you have stepping out on the track and hearing so many people cheer and scream with nothing but pride for their fellow Canadians. That feeling alone is enough to push me through this next season of tough training and long days. To have the chance now to be on teams with my brother Derek means that much more. I’ve loved getting to watch him grow and succeed in the sport over the years. He never ceases to amaze me with his accomplishments and has given me the motivation to continue with my training. It will be one of the proudest moments of my life if I get to walk into the Olympic Stadium with him next summer.

TNIAAM: What are some of your best memories of being a student-athlete at Syracuse? Are there any fellow Orange athletes who help inspire/motivate you?

JD:I have quite a few good memories from my days as a student-athlete at Syracuse. I always loved travelling with the team to meets all over the east coast, especially to compete in our conference championships. Those were the times our team comradery was really evident and we were all there to support each other, no matter the event group. I also fondly remember attending other SU teams’ home games and participating in various ‘Cuse Cares events with my teammates and other student athlete friends. We would get together days before homecoming to tie-dye shirts orange and blue and spend the day on main campus for all the pre-game activities. Hearing about the great things all my teammates are doing in their lives now is so inspiring.

Everyone is so successful in so many different areas and living some pretty amazing lives. There are two of my teammates in particular who are doing great things in the sporting world that really help motivate me to keep going. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to compete with Uhunoma Osazuwa on a few occasions this summer. She just recently set a new personal best and Nigerian National Record in the heptathlon and will be representing Nigeria at this summer’s IAAF World Championships. Like me, she took some time away from the heptathlon and completed her doctorate, so to see her doing so well in her come back to the event has motivated me so much these past two years. It’s also been great to see Katie (Hursey) Zaferes killing it in the triathlon world. She’s had an amazing transition into this sport and is really making a name for herself. I hope to be able to join both these amazing ladies in Rio next summer for an SU reunion at the Olympic Games!

TNIAAM: Can you let the Syracuse fans know what is upcoming for you as you work towards your goal of competing at the Rio Olympics in 2016? How can they follow you?

JD: I’m currently working on some rehab for a hamstring tear I suffered at the Pan American Games, but will soon be back to my full training. There will be a lot of tough work put in over the next few months and my coach and I are focused on training smart this season. That means finding the right balance between work and recovery so we can be efficient with my training time. I still have to get my qualification standard in for next summer, so we will get into some high quality competitions early next spring throughout the Southern USA and Europe to meet that. Then all my time will be focused on ensuring I’m at my absolute best to get ready for the Games. Anyone interested can follow my progress on my Facebook page, on my website or through my club’s site

Thanks to Jillian for taking the time to catch up with us. We will update her progress as we approach next year's Olympic Games.