Priscilla Lopes-Schliep has raced to Olympic and world championship medals and had her name at the top of the world rankings.
But what she will miss most is that moment before the gun goes off, when a hush falls over the crowd.
"It's when I'm looking down the track and knowing that I am ready to run, I'm ready to roll," she said.
"Everyone thinks I have that kind of 'beast mode,' like 'don't get in my way' kind of look. It's having that zoned-in feeling. That is the coolest thing ever. Especially when the gun goes off and you start racing. You don't hear anything. You're so focused, every hurdle comes up quick, it comes up easy. . . that feeling."
The hurdler from Whitby, Ont., announced her retirement from competitive sport on Thursday, capping a career that saw her win bronze at the 2008 Olympics — one of Canada's two track and field medals in Beijing — and silver at the 2009 world championships. Her best season though was 2010, when she went undefeated through 12 races to earn the world No. 1 ranking, and capped the summer by winning the prestigious Diamond League crown.
The 33-year-old announced last fall that she was switching sports to bobsled, as the brakeman for two-time Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries.
She travelled to Calgary a few times this past winter to train with Humphries, but found the sport wasn't "a perfect fit." Part of the problem was the lack of a decent indoor training facility near her home in rural Nebraska.
"I told Kaillie 'I feel like I'm training at 85, 90 per cent here,'" Lopes-Schliep said in a phone interview Wednesday night, ahead of Thursday's announcement in Edmonton. "If you're training for the Olympics, you need to be training at 100 per cent. I wanted to be honest with her, I didn't want to hold anything back from her either."
Lopes-Schliep hadn't hurdled in competition since the 2012 Olympic trials, where she'd made a spectacular comeback from having her first child — daughter Nataliya, who's now four — only to miss out on the team for the London Games. Normally the picture of consistency, she uncharacteristically hit the seventh hurdle in the trials, and wound up finishing fifth.
But Lopes-Schliep, who's also the mom to two-year-old Jaslene, said she leaves with no regrets.
"I'm so excited to have had such a great career, and to be able to do what I did in my sport, to run with the flag on my back, and have dreams and goals, and to see almost all of them come true," she said. "I don't think many athletes ever have everything they want come true.
"At the end of the day, being able to say I've medalled at the Olympics, medalled at worlds, being the fastest hurdler in the world at one point in time. . . I think I've got some good check marks on my list."
Lopes-Schliep, who announced her retirement in Edmonton on the eve of the TrackTown Classic meet there, is doing some coaching. She had four athletes qualify for the Nebraska state high school championships, she said proudly. She's otherwise busy with motivational speaking, but most of all, she's savouring the opportunity to be at home with her daughters.
On the heels of last weekend's Olympic trials, Lopes-Schliep feels she leaves the sport in a good place. Her 2008 Olympic medal was the first track and field medal in 12 years for Canada. Dylan Armstrong originally finished fourth in shot put in Beijing but was awarded the bronze medal in 2013 after Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus was stripped for a failed drug test.
Four years later in London, Derek Drouin won Canada's only medal in the sport — a bronze in high jump. But Canada captured a record-eight medals at last summer's world track and field championships and is sending its largest, and arguably strongest, team ever to Rio next month.
"To go out there and know, I brought some hurdlers to the game here," she said. "It's cool to be able to say that, to be part of history that way.
"Obviously I do miss (track), but I'm happy where I am now too. I gave it all I had, and God knows what was best for me. I enjoyed it."