The County Marathon

October 2nd, 2022

19th Annual

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The Gayle Ornikova Trophy

Gayle Ornikova (born Olinek) was a marathon runner and bodybuilder from Canada. Ornikova grew up in Toronto, attending Alderwood High School and Ryerson Polytechnic Institute. She was the Canadian 400-meter champion in 1969 with a time of 55.5 seconds, and was a 400-meter and 800-meter runner on the Canadian national team in 1972. She later turned to distance running and became a world-class marathoner. Olinekova won the 1979 New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon with a time of 2:35:12, then the third-fastest time ever for a female runner. She set the Canadian women's marathon record four times between 1977 and 1979. She also posted a time of 2:36:12 in the Fiesta Bowl Marathon in Scottsdale, Arizona on December 1, 1979.

Ornikova moved to Westlake Village, California to train for the first women’s Olympic marathon in 1984. However, she was seriously injured in a car accident; not only did she miss out on the Olympics, but her running career was ended as well.

Ornikova only competed once as a bodybuilder, in the Frank Zane Invitational on June 28, 1980. However, she had a significant impact on the sport due to her amazing quadriceps and calf development. (Wennerstrom, 2004) Her amazing legs earned her national coverage in 1981, when she was the subject of a feature article in Sports Illustrated called "Greatest Legs To Ever Stride The Earth". (Levin, 1981)

Later in 1981, Ornikova appeared on the cover of the magazine New West, photographed by art photographer Helmut Newton. The photograph was one of several by Newton that ran under the heading "Strong Women: A Portfolio of California's Super Athletes".

Ornikova participated in a number of other sports, including speedskating, cycling, and rough-water rowing.

She published several books on exercise and healthy lifestyles:

  • Go For It! (1982), Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-45692-X.
  • Legs: Super Legs in Six Weeks (1983), Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-47241-0.
  • The Sensuality of Strength (1984), Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-49187-3.
  • Winning Without Steroids (1988), Keats Publishing. ISBN 0-87983-480-3.
  • Power Aging: Staying Young At Any Age (1998), Thunder's Mouth PR. ISBN 1-56025-123-9.

Ornikova died at Duarte, California at age 50 on November 26, 2003 after a long battle with breast cancer. At the time of her death, she had been working as a chiropractor in Westlake Village.

Our Chosen Charity:

Prince Edward County
Memorial Hospital Foundation

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