Macrozonaris wins Canadian sprint crown; Surin out

The changing of the guard in Canadian men's sprinting looks like it's being completed earlier than expected, with Bruny Surin's withdrawal from what was slated to be his last Canadian track and field championships on Saturday.

Still hobbled by a chronic hamstring injury first suffered two years ago at the Olympic trials, the 34-year-old sprinter, who co-holds the national 100-metre record of 9.84 seconds with Donovan Bailey, pulled out of the 100m competition at the 2002 national championships in Edmonton.

"When I am full stride I feel it and after the whole area gets tight," said Surin. "Especially in the blocks. It's terrible."

But he doesn't plan on absenting himself from the track world.

"I want to still be involved in track and field. It's in my blood," he said.

In his wake, two of Canada's most promising young sprinters stepped forward with blistering performances in the 100m final.

Nicolas Macrozonaris of Laval, Que., 21, followed up a wind-aided 9.96 in his semifinal with a superb run of 9.91 to win the national title in a performance that was only slightly less impressive for the push he was given by a stiff a tailwind.

Pierre Browne, a 22-year-old from Toronto, finished second with a time of 9.98 - notwithstanding the wind, it was the first time two Canadian men have gone under 10 seconds in the same 100m race since the heyday of Bailey and Surin.

Macrozonaris will now take Canadian hopes into the Commonwealth Games against very strong sprint teams from England and Jamaica. Surin, a member of Canada's Olympic champion men's relay team in 1996, still hopes to run the relay at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, presumably along with Macrozonaris and Browne.

"I have been up and down for 17 years now, and I'm just relaxing myself," Surin said of his last season of competition. "This is kind of my farewell."

In other action on Saturday, Charles Allen won the men's 110m hurdles in 13.52 in a race where the tailwind probably did more harm than good, especially where perennial Canadian champion Adrian Woodley was concerned.

Woodley had trouble with his pace and stride pattern nearly from the start and completely fell out of his rhythm after knocking over the sixth hurdle.

Perdita Felicien of Pickering, Ont. had no such trouble in cruising to a win in the women's 100m hurdles. Her time of 12.77m would have ranked her among the world's elite were it not wind-aided, but she should still be a top contender at Manchester and is among the world's top 10 or so.

Sonia Paquette and Angela Whyte were second and third, respectively.

Diane Cummins of Victoria put together the most impressive win of the day in the women's 800m - not surprising considering her breakthrough season in 2001, when she won Grand Prix and Golden League medals and finished fifth at the world championship.

She stretched out the field in the first lap, and held a lead of about 10m by the time she hit the back straight on the bell lap. Fighting a headwind of about 30 km/h, she held her form to win in 2:04.94, nearly three seconds ahead of second-place Heather Hennigar.

The men's 800m provided the most thrilling finish of the day. Again uncertain of what tactics to deploy because of the headwind on the back straight, the runners stayed bunched up until Nathan Brannen started pulling away midway through the bell lap.

Brannen appeared to be pulling away until a tremendous kick coming out of the final turn from veteran Zach Whitmarsh of Victoria caught him by a quarter-stride at the finish. Whitmarsh, who used his longer stride to full advantage in reeling in Brannen with the perfectly timed kick, crossed in 1:52.17 for a narrow margin of .07 seconds.

Wind was an issue in the 400m races, too. Kaltouma Nadjina, a recent immigrant from Chad who now lives in Calgary, won the women's race in 52.36, running an evenly paced lap while other runners were hesitant on the back straight. Nadjina simply left second-place Ladonna Antoine-Watkins too much ground to make up.

In the men's race, national record holder Shane Niemi shook off a challenge from Tyler Christopher and eased his way to his fifth Canadian title in 46.18 seconds.

Dominique Bilodeau of Sherbrooke, Que. claimed her third national javelin title with a throw of 50.25m - her best of the season, although still well short of the Commonwealth Games qualifying standard of 60m.

"I am always happy when I compete," said Bilodeau, who earned the gold on her second throw into a stiff breeze. "I proved a lot with this victory. I am very happy."

The throw was good enough to qualify her for the North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association under-25 championships in San Antonio, Tex. in August.

Jason Tunks, 27, of London, Ont., captured the gold in the men's discus with a throw of 64.37 metres, under his career best of 67.88.

"I just flew back from Europe so I am pretty tired," said Tunks, who missed a month of competition with a back injury. "I'm ready to throw a lot further, and will when I need to."

Luckily for Tunks, he didn't have to be at best as his two closest competitiors were just over five metres back. Eric Forshaw of Windsor, Ont., was second at 59.42 metres, while Jason Gervais of Timmins, Ont., was third at 57.90.

The championships wrap up on Sunday.