When you're as fast as Toyin Olupona, you're not accustomed to playing catch-up.
But despite her gold-medal form at the Canadian Track and Field Championships earlier this month, the former Sault resident is coming from behind in her bid to represent her country on the world stage.
Not only has the former Sir James Dunn sprinting standout been battling an injury during recent competition, but she's also working to secure a spot on the national team despite missing the recent Pan American Games.
"I wish I competed there, because it would have been easier to get an idea of where I stand against top-level competition," said Olupona, a graduate of the University of Tennessee who now splits time between Orillia and Fort Worth, Texas.
"I could have been better at communicating with Athletics Canada."
Olupona didn't realize until too late the Pan-Am team was being picked, but hopes her first-place finish in the national 100-metre dash will help her make the cut for the world championships Aug. 25 to Sept. 2 in Osaka, Japan.
Olupona ran the 100-metre final in 11.6 seconds at the Canadian championships in Windsor, crossing the line 0.11 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.
"I'm not happy with that time at all, though," Olupona said. "But I'll take the win. It's not what was being indicated in practice, but I'll take it, considering the situation."
A back strain hampered the runner during the Canadian championships, prompting her to pull out of the 200-metre race.
"It's been there since May and never really left, because I've been training pretty hard on it," she said. "But that's the only way to get better."
She plans to meet with her chiropractor in Toronto this week and hopes the injury won't keep her from finding a spot on the national team and a shot at international gold.
"And if that doesn't work out, I've got my agent seeing what meets in Europe we can get into, which is better than nationals, but the worlds would be the best situation for me," Olupona said.
Olupona graduated from Tennessee in 2005 with a degree in political science, six years after parents Sam and Funke Olupona moved the family away from the Sault to give her a better shot at developing her talent.
In her final year of university, Olupona also won Canadian gold, running the 100 metres in 11.3 seconds. She also travelled to the world championships, held that year in Helsinki, Finland.
She was a member of the Lady Volunteers squad that won a team championship at the NCAA indoor track championships.
At the indoor event, Olupona posted a time of 7.24 seconds to take second in the 60-metre dash.
In the NCAA's yearly outdoor meet, she was fifth in the 100-metre dash.
At the Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Pacific World Cup held that year, she came first in the 100-metre sprint with a time of 11.4 seconds.
That same season, she also smashed her school's 55-metre record for the second time, posting a time of 6.74.
Olupona's possible plans include graduate school, but her first priority right now is finding the best coaching and top-flight competition. To do that, she'll need to return to the track healthy. "I have to find a better situation, coaching-wise, than what I have right now," she said.
"Since college it's been a hard transition to being a professional.
"But I'm working on it."