When Micha Powell walks into Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium during the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, she will be treading a well-worn path.
The University of Maryland sprinter, who will compete for Canada in the 4x400-meter relay event, has learned the Olympic ideal from her parents. Her father, Michael Powell, was a three-time Olympian for the United States track and field team. Michael Powell, who has owned the world long-jump record for the past 25 years, competed for his home country during the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics. He was the long-jump silver medalist during the 1988 and 1992 Games, before finishing fifth in his final Olympic appearance at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
Powell's mother, Rosey Edeh, was also a three-time Olympian. Edeh, who is now a Canadian TV news anchor, competed in the 400-meter hurdles event for Canada during the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympics. Edeh, who was a five-time track and field All-American at Rice University, still holds the Canadian 400-meter hurdles record.
"I really have amazing parents," Powell said. "My mom said that when I ran, she saw my strides and could tell that I had something in me. She told me to run with no fear."
Despite the family history, it took a while for Powell to become a sprinter. She grew up playing tennis and running cross country and didn't enter the world of competitive track and field until she was 17 years old.
"I grew up in Canada, where track and field is not that big," Powell said. "It's mostly about hockey and lacrosse up there."
Born in Montreal and a resident of Toronto since 2005, Powell's 4x400-meter relay team finished third at the Canadian Junior Championships. But she wasn't an original target for the University of Maryland's coaching staff.
"The coaches came to watch two other girls at my track club, and I introduced myself," Powell said. "At the time, I was still thinking about going to Syracuse to play tennis. But once I got my time down from 59 seconds to 56 seconds [in the 400-meter dash], they wanted me to run for them. They told me that I'd be a great addition to their team."
During her recently completed junior year, Powell competed in the NCAA indoor and outdoor championship meets. She established the school's indoor record in the 400-meter dash with a time of 52.56 seconds. During the outdoor season, Powell timed at 51.97 seconds to set Maryland's 400-meter outdoor mark. She also was a member of the Terps' sprint medley relay team that ran a school-record 3:54.92. As a sophomore, Powell earned second-team All-America honors for her performance during Maryland's indoor season.
"Going to Maryland was the best decision for me," said Powell, whose head coach, Andrew Valmon, was a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the United States in the 4x400-meter relay. "I owe all of my preparation, mentally and physically, to my training there. My coaches understand that there are so many factors that go into running. I never felt like I was doing things randomly. We'd do some long intervals one day, then shorter ones the next day. They knew that I had a really good finish, so they worked with me on getting better starts."
Powell made her Olympic ambition a reality at the Canadian Trials in Edmonton, Alberta. She finished sixth in the 400-meter finals, which helped her earn a spot on the Olympic 4x400-meter relay team. The 4x400 squad was chosen not only on the individual performances at the trials but also on the 400-meter times the competitors achieved earlier in the year. While competing for Maryland at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor East Regionals, Powell completed her 400-meter run in 51.97 seconds, the third-fastest time of all Canadian Olympic competitors.
"I was still in Edmonton waiting for the email," said Powell, whose eventual goal is to match her mother's three Olympic appearances. "I finally got it at 1:30 in the morning, and I was so stoked that I couldn't sleep after that."
Powell will leave for the 2016 Summer Games July 29, but won't run her first race until Aug. 19. The 4x400-meter relay finals are scheduled for Aug. 21, the final day of the Games. Eight days after the closing ceremonies, she will begin her final year at Maryland when classes resume Aug. 29.
"I can't believe that I'll get to tell my teammates about this experience," Powell said. "I'll be so glad to get back and train with them. I want to influence everyone in such a positive way."
Following her May 2017 graduation, Powell will have the freedom to explore different options.
"I would love to run professionally and would also love to coach," Powell said. "My mom turned pro and ran all over Europe. But I would also like to be a correspondent. I speak English, Italian and French, and I would love to work in any of those places."