Melissa Bishop to race for 800m podium at track and field worlds
Canadian-record holder's medal pursuit is 'redemption' for Rio Olympic disappointment
Melissa Bishop is anxious to erase the bad memory of a podium miss at last summer's Rio Olympics in the women's 800-metre final at the track and field world championships on Sunday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 3:10 p.m. ET).
The Canadian-record holder crossed the finish line second in her semifinal behind Ajee Wilson of the United States in one minute 59.56 seconds on a breezy Friday night at London Stadium.
"It's everything," the 2015 world silver medallist told the CBC about advancing to the world final. "It's redemption, it's showing the world I can still be on top.
"In Rio, I could have run 1:55 and I still would have been just as upset because at that point the game is about medals."
On that Aug. 20 night in Brazil, Bishop could not fight off Kenya's Margaret Wambui in the final straightaway for the bronze medal. Wambui passed Bishop to finish with a time of 1:56.89, only 13-100ths of a second ahead of the Canadian, who lowered her national record with a time 1:57.02.
South Africa's Caster Semenya ran in 1:55.28 to win gold as expected, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi took silver in 1:56.49. Entering the race, Bishop had run the third-fastest 800 of the year, behind Semenya then Niyonsaba.
Rounding into form
The thought of narrowly missing a medal still reduces the 29-year-old Bishop, a native of Eganville, Ont., to tears.
"It's like a pain in your side that won't go away," she said recently.
According to CBC Sports analyst Anson Henry, it was important Bishop ran sub-two minutes to put herself in the right mindset for the final.
"She knows she isn't going to have the natural strength and power of some of the other athletes," he said, "so she has to make up for it in other areas, like tactically how she maneuvers within her racess and how she manages her energy.
"She had a very comfortable run tonight to save her legs for the all-important final."
To bring home a medal to Dennis, his own medal, I'm sure his wife Janet would love that one to go on the wall.— Melissa Bishop on her ailing coach, Dennis Fairall, who's watching the event at home in Windsor, Ont.
Henry said the fact Bishop ran a Canadian record 1:57.01 on July 21 at a Diamond League meet in Monaco is proof she is rounding into form at the right time.
Bishop said the next two days would be about recovery, with a podium finish in her sights. In her thoughts is coach Dennis Fairall, who will watch the drama unfold in his home office in Windsor, Ont.
The 64-year-old is battling progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a rare degenerative brain disease that has no cure and is slowly stealing his mobility and speech.
Given this is the first major international meet Fairall and Bishop have been apart, has it served as added motivation to reach the podium?
"Oh, the big guy would love it," said Bishop, with a smile. "To bring home a medal to Dennis, his own medal, I'm sure his wife Janet would love that one to go on the wall."
Interestingly, Niyonsaba finished in 2:01.11 in her semifinal, matching Bishop's time in Thursday's heats. The 2016 Olympic silver medallist had broken two minutes in each race over the past two seasons while Wambui, who won bronze in Rio, went 2:01.19 on Friday.
"I think they just did what was needed to qualify," said Henry. "The final will come down to who puts together the best race and has conserved the most energy through the rounds."
Emmanuel 'a star in the making'
Crystal Emmanuel, the first Canadian woman to compete in a world 200 final since Angela Bailey in 1983, narrowly missed matching her national record, stopping the clock in 22.60 seconds for a seventh-place finish.
"We have a star in the making for women athletics in Canada," Emmanuel's coach, Charles Allen, told CBC Sports. "She executed the race according to plan, which was to run the turn technically sound and bring it home without tightening up."
The 25-year-old Emmanuel improved as the competition progressed, running 22.87 in advancing to the semifinals, where she clocked 22.85. At the 2015 worlds in Beijing, Emmanuel ran 23.22 and was eliminated in the heats.
"The fact she is a world championship finalist is a confidence booster, and she was able to execute near her personal best under that kind of pressure in the final," said Henry.
Schippers successfully defends title
The Toronto resident established a new Canadian mark of 22.50 recently in Ireland, topping Marita Payne-Wiggins, whose 22.62 stood for 34 years.
Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands successfully defended her world title in a season-best 22.05. Marie-Josee Ta Lou, the world silver medallist in the 100, was second in 22.08 to set an Ivory Coast record. Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the reigning Olympic 400 champion, took home the bronze medal in 22.15.
"Those ladies know what it takes to be successful at the international level," Allen said. "Surely, Ms. Emmanuel will get the chance to compete against those talented ladies more next year.
"She has learned what it takes to prepare her mind and body to achieve quality performances. We are confident in her drive and dedication to continue making history for Canada."
Lalonde lowers her steeplechase record
At first glance, Genevieve Lalonde's 13th-place showing in the women's 3,000-metre steeplechase final might be deemed a disappointing result.
But the Moncton long-distance runner was all smiles Friday after her time in a fast-paced race of nine minutes 29.99 seconds beat her Canadian record of 9:30.24, set last August at the Rio Olympics.
"It's what you always want, to come to these major championships and do your best," Lalonde told the CBC. "To break that Canadian record again, I'm pretty pumped.
"I've got a lot more I want to show the world."
The 25-year-old Lalonde, who ran 9:31.81 to reach the final, won her first Canadian title last month in a championship record 9:37.45. Two years ago at worlds, she failed to make the final and finished 19th overall in 9:36.83.
"A seven-second drop is significant," Henry said. "I'm not sure what personal goals she had set out for herself, but I would think she would have to be happy with the fact that she has run faster than she ever has before."
Meanwhile, a week of upsets continued with Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs finishing 1-2 in 9:02.58 and 9:03.77 for a championship record and personal best, respectively. Frerichs finished second by outkicking defending champion Hyvin Jepkemoi of Kenya in a sprint for silver.
Phylicia George eliminated in hurdles semis
Phylicia George pointed to a nagging right hamstring injury and lost training time leading up to the world championships for her poor semifinal performance in the 100-metre hurdles.
The two-time Olympian started well in Friday's heats but the lost fitness while recovering from the injury likely had an effect on George's fitness late in the race. She finished fifth of eight hurdlers in her heat in 13.04 seconds, marginally slower than her qualifying time of 13.01.
"I missed two months of training, missed a lot of races, so I'm not really sharp," the 29-year-old native of Scarborough, Ont., who was eighth at the Rio Olympics, told CBC after the race. "I knew it was going to be a battle and I was just trying to hold things and rely on my experience.
"I used to be in the finals so I'm really disappointed. It just wasn't my day today."
The hamstring progressively worsened near the end of George's indoor season in the spring and affected her early in the outdoor season. She ran a season-best 12.85 at the Grenada Invitational in St. George's in April and 13.14 in Doha, Qatar on May 5 — her one and only Diamond League meet this season — before the injury sidelined her.
No Canadians in high jump final
Canada's Mike Mason failed to qualify for the final in men's high jump after clearing 2.26 metres.
Reigning world and Olympic champion Derek Drouin of Canada did not compete due to an Achilles tendon injury.
With files from The Canadian Press