Edmonton runner's coaches say he has what it takes to reach Olympic podium in Tokyo

Edmonton runner Marco Arop was recently named to Canada's Olympic team. His coaches say he has what it takes to earn a medal in the 800 metres.

Marco Arop recently took silver at Diamond League 800-metre race

Edmonton-raised middle-distance runner Marco Arop will represent Canada at the Tokyo Olympics later this month. (Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Edmonton runner Marco Arop is in the best shape of his life.

On Sunday, just one day after being named to Canada's Olympic track and field team, he ran a personal best time of 1:44:00 in the 800 metres at a Diamond League meet in Stockholm, Sweden. The performance earned him a silver medal.

His coaches believe he could pick up another medal in Tokyo next month. The 22-year-old is currently ranked eighth in the world. 

"I think Marco is as capable as anybody else in the world to win," said one of his coaches, Chris Woods, the head coach of Mississippi State University's track and field team. 

"I refuse to put any limitations on Marco whatsoever," he added.

Born in Khartoum, Sudan, Arop and his family fled civil war in the country when he was a toddler, spending a couple of  years in Egypt before coming to Canada as refugees in 2002.

Growing up in Edmonton, he played basketball and dabbled in track, but only pursued it seriously in Grade 12, when he was attending what is now called St. Oscar Romero Catholic High School.

Edmonton coach Ron Thompson first noticed Arop's tall stature and easy stride at a local track meet in 2016. He recruited him for the Voléo Athletics Track Club that season and watched his 800-metre times drop dramatically. 

When Arop told Thompson about a basketball scholarship offer, the coach told him he had a gut feeling a brighter future lay on the track. 

Thompson sung Arop's praises to Woods, who was skeptical at first but quickly realized the young athlete's talents. Woods travelled to Edmonton to meet him and recalled getting to know his family over a delicious meal prepared by Arop's mother.

"As cliché as this is, the rest is pretty much history," Woods said. 

Arop followed fellow Canadian runner Brandon McBride to Mississippi State and competed for the Bulldogs until accepting a professional contract with Adidas in 2019.

Both coaches said Arop approaches his training with determination and quiet confidence, as well as a deep love for running and the opportunities it provides.

"He has been a joy to coach — an absolute joy," Thompson said.

Arop is set to compete in another 800-metre race on Friday at a Diamond League meet in Monaco.

After that, Woods said, he will be focused on staying fit and healthy leading up to the Olympics. 

The first round of the men's 800 metres in Tokyo is scheduled for July 31, with the final on August 4.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.