triple jumper Caroline Ehrhardt credits special inspiration
for stunning result
Morris Dalla Costa, The London Free Press
Wednesday, August 2, 2017 3:57:46 EDT PM
London decathlete Taylor Stewart and Caroline
Ehrhardt a triple jumper, both won gold medals at
the Francophone games in the Ivory Coast in Africa
last week. (MIKE HENSEN,
The London Free Press)
It’s a performance that would
challenge even the most pragmatic, the most practical,
the most level-headed among us to deviate from what
is our normal.
It would capture the
imagination of the most whimsical, most romantic,
most esoteric -- those who believe in the impossible.
It’s a story
of strength, determination and belief in power somehow
transferred by those who love us.
It’s not a question
of believing in the hard-to-believe because the
end-product was the proof at a time that was among
the darkest for track and field athlete Caroline
Ehrhardt and her fiancé, decathlete Taylor
Ehrhardt had a special
bond with her 69-year-old father Klaus. He was her
father but also her supporter, friend and biggest
fan. They grew especially close as Klaus nurtured
Ehrhardt and her two sisters through the pain of
losing their mother to cancer when Ehrhardt was
in elementary school.
Ehrhardt, from Espanola,
showed promise in track and field and Klaus wanted
her to have something to distract her from her mother’s
He also wanted a way
to keep an eye on his young daughter, so to make
sure she wouldn’t have to train in what Ehrhardt
calls “some of the tougher places in Espanola,”
Klaus built a jumping pit in their backyard.
there today,” she says.
Caroline and dad Klaus
Ehrhardt, now 25, came to Western University
and competed in track and field. Her specialty was the
triple jump. It’s also where she met Stewart.
Throughout his daughter's university and
international career, Klaus would be at her events.
He was watching in early July when competing
for London Western Track and Field Club, Ehrhardt won
the triple jump at the Canadian championships, covering
13.53 metres. He also watched as Stewart finished second
in the decathlon.
Two days after the meet concluded, Ehrhardt
got a call that turned her world around. Her father had
died of a heart attack.
Just a month and a half earlier, Stewart
had lost his stepfather to cancer.
“Trying to help my mother out and
then with Klaus -- I was very close to Klaus. It was a
big shock,” Stewart said. “It was the hardest
thing I’ve been through, watching (Caroline) go
through what she went through.”
In the fog that followed the death of
her father, Ehrhardt had to make a decision. Both she
and Stewart were scheduled to compete in the Francophone
Games in the Ivory Coast in Africa beginning July 23.
Ehrhardt did almost no training. She couldn’t eat
and lost eight pounds.
After talking with Stewart she decided
she would travel to the Games even though she wasn’t
sure she would compete.
“I still don’t know how I
did it, to be honest,” Ehrhardt said. “It
was huge that Taylor was there. I don’t think I
would have gotten on the plane if he wasn’t. I would
have had to grieve by myself over there. Knowing my dad
and how supportive he’s been of my journey in sport,
I know that wherever he is, he would have been disappointed
if I’d had a poor performance because of him. So
I just tried to keep that in mind . . . how happy he would
have been if I did my best. I still can’t really
believe I did what I did.”
The triple jump was held on July 24.
“Watching her warm up before the
competition, I knew it was going to be a good day by how
well she looked,” Stewart said. “By her second
jump, 13.45, I kind of knew something good was going to
be in store.”
Her third jump was 13.55, a personal best.
On her fifth jump she flew 13.65 and the emotion started
to get to her.
“After 13.65, I knew that I was
going to break down a little bit,” Ehrhardt said.
“But I knew that there was more, I had a little
more. When I went 13.83, I just lost it. I broke down.
I was so happy I did that but sad that I couldn’t
tell him. I know that he knows but . . . “
The 13.83 was 30 centimetres better than
she’d ever jumped going into the competition.
July 24, the day she competed in the triple
jump, would have been her father’s 69th birthday.
“Even from just an emotional standpoint,
how is it possible that I did what I did?” she said.
“From just the physical side, I didn’t train
for two weeks, I’d lost eight pounds. It was impossible
to eat. How is it when times I thought I was in the best
shape of my life and I’ve had the best practices
going into competitions, I haven’t touched the distances
that I did in Africa? After everything I’ve been
through, someone was helping me.”
Ehrhardt says it was one of the hardest
things she’s had to do.
“It was tough,” she said.
“I didn’t try to put on a brave face or anything
or fight the emotions. I just took everything as it came.
If I was sad, I’d cry. If I was mad, I’d talk
it through with Taylor and talk myself through the grieving
process, just keeping in mind on July 24th at 4 p.m.,
I’m going to jump the best I can for him.”
Stewart also had an outstanding meet.
He won the decathlon with 7,852 points, just short of
the magic 8,000-point barrier. He too might have had some
“Even before Taylor and I were dating,
(Klaus) was a huge fan of Taylor because he followed the
track world. He was pretty excited when we started dating,”
London Western coach Vickie Croley was
astonished by the results, considering the circumstances.
“What they did was incredible and
showed the strength of the human spirit,” Croley
said. “They had each other’s support and the
support of family, coaches and friends. When circumstances
aren’t good, athletes need to remember they aren’t
in it alone and they have the support of so many to help
them achieve what they are capable of.
“I’m so proud of both of them
and would have been even if the results weren’t
The two are getting married next October,
but the strong results over the last few weeks have reinvigorated
their desire to continue to compete.
“We were starting to question how
much longer we would be doing this,” Stewart said.
“There were two different factors,”
explained Ehrhardt. “When you are in university,
this is something we’re going to do, but now we
are getting married and there are other things we want
to do. We want to have a career. Do we really want to
keep making these sacrifices? Maybe when we get married,
we pursue something else.
“But now with the results being
so promising, how can you not go for another Olympics?”
If that’s the case they’ll
both know someone will be there to help them.