Track and Field·Preview

'Healthy and fit,' Aaron Brown eager for first top-3 finish at Diamond League Final

Veteran sprinters Aaron Brown and Andre De Grasse are among the professional track and field athletes seeking the first Diamond League Trophy won by a Canadian in 11 years. Champions will be crowned in 26 disciplines on Thursday in Zurich and take home $30,000 US.

Shot putter Dylan Armstrong was last Canadian to win Trophy in 2011

Aaron Brown, pictured in May after winning his first Diamond League 100-metre race, is eyeing his first season-ending trophy and $30,000 US top prize in the distance at the Weltklasse Zürich competition on Thursday. Brown and fellow Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse, right, will also face each other in the 200. (David Ramos/Getty Images/File)

While Aaron Brown prepared in April for his seventh season on the Diamond League track and field circuit, he envisioned being on the start line in the 100 and 200 metres for the first time at the season-ending event. This week, the healthy and fit sprinter imagines a top-three finish at Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich.

The Toronto native secured his spot in the 200 at the two-day Weltklasse Zürich Diamond League Final with a third-place finish in Brussels last Friday, the last of 12 global competitions for athletes to accumulate points to battle for glory in Switzerland. While his time of 20.22 seconds won't raise eyebrows, it was run into a strong headwind of -2.9 metres per second.

"I believe I would have run under 20 seconds and possibly a personal best had we had a [slight tailwind]," Brown told CBC Sports on Monday. "That bodes well for my fitness and also speaks to how I've learned to be adaptable to unforeseen circumstances as a professional."

Brown clocked a personal best of 19.95 in legal wind on July 5, 2019 in Diamond League action in Lausanne, Switzerland, about 225 kilometres southwest of Zurich. The 30-year-old, without a sub-20 performance in 2022, went a season-best 20.03 in winning the 200 on June 26 in Langley, B.C., to complete the sprint double at a fourth consecutive Canadian championships.

"I am eager to reach the top three," said Brown, who was fourth in the 200 in each of his previous four appearances in the Diamond League Final. "I still feel healthy and fit [after a long season]. Beyond the opportunity for high-level success at a major world championship or Olympic final, the Diamond League Trophy represents the biggest prize of the season.

"The fields get deeper each season so being in a position to vie for it after qualifying is an achievement on its own. I relish the opportunity to win one day."

WATCH | Brown secures berth in 200m final at Diamond League Final:

Toronto's Aaron Brown finishes 3rd in Diamond League Brussels men's 200m race

3 months ago
Duration 4:25
American Erriyon Knighton won the men's 200-metre race at the Diamond League event in Brussels with a time of 20.07 seconds, while Toronto's Aaron Brown finished third with a time of 20.22 seconds.

Brown will line up for the 100 on Thursday at 2:49 p.m. ET, one hour before the 200 (3:52 p.m.). The three-time Olympian decided to balance his schedule across the two disciplines this season, racing nine times in the 100 and eight in the 200.

CBC Sports will stream the event on its website, CBC Sports app and CBC Gem on Thursday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET.

In both events, Brown will face longtime rival and relay teammate Andre De Grasse of Markham, Ont., who is also looking to win his first Diamond League Trophy, $30,000 US in prize money and a wild-card entry to next year's World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

De Grasse 5-time world medallist 

He has won six medals over two Olympics, including 200 gold last summer in Tokyo, and is a five-time world medallist, but finished off the podium in both sprint events in July.

On Sunday, Brown posted a winning time of 10.12 in the 100 at the Meeting Citta'di Padova in Italy to beat De Grasse (10.35, seventh) for the second time in as many races this season.

Five weeks ago, there was talk De Grasse might shut down his season after battling an early-season foot injury before contracting COVID-19 a month before worlds.

Reigning bronze medallist Trayvon Bromell of the United States and South African champion Akani Simbine — who lost to Bromell in the 100 at last month's Diamond League meet in Silesia, Poland — probably will provide the toughest competition for the Canadian duo.

The biggest challenge is being able to replicate what I do exceptionally well at practice in the biggest races of the season.— Canadian sprinter Aaron Brown

The 200 will be equally challenging, with Noah Lyles of the U.S. leading the way with a 7-0 record this season. On Aug. 26, he breezed to a 19.56 finish in Lausanne, the fourth-fastest time in the world this year and seventh-fastest in history.

WATCH | Lyles blazes to 19.46-second finish at Diamond League Monaco:

Noah Lyles wins 200m in Monaco as USA sweeps podium

4 months ago
Duration 3:23
Noah Lyles of the United States dominated from start to finish to come out on top in the men's 200m during the Monaco stop of the Diamond League circuit on Wednesday. Aaron Brown of Toronto finished fifth.

Erriyon Knighton, the 18-year-old phenom from Florida fresh off his first Diamond League win in Brussels (20.07), is also in Thursday's field along with fellow American Kenny Bednarek, who won world silver and Diamond League races in Doha, Qatar and Rome in June.

"The biggest challenge," Brown said, "is being able to replicate what I do exceptionally well at practice in the biggest races of the season. When I am toe-to-toe with the best in the world, I need to be the same version of myself and learn to execute at the highest level."

Lopes-Schliep won Canada's 1st Trophy

The most recent Canadian to win a Diamond League title was six-foot-four, 310-pound shot putter Dylan Armstrong of Kamloops, B.C., who won $40,000 and a four-carat diamond-encrusted trophy in Brussels on Sept. 16, 2011.

The previous year, one-time world No. 1 hurdler Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Whitby, Ont., became Canada's inaugural Diamond League champion when the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist stopped the clock in 12.54 seconds in the women's 100 at the Memorial Van Damme competition in Belgium the day after her 28th birthday.

Sarah Mitton, the Canadian record holder and reigning national champion, capped her memorable shot put season with a second-place performance on Wednesday.

The native of Brooklyn, N.S., had a best throw of 19.56 metres on the first of her six attempts on Sechselautenplatz, one of the city's most famous squares on the shore of Lake Zurich.

However, Mitton endured some struggles thereafter with three no-throws and another attempt measuring 18.85.

Chase Ealey of the United States topped the field of six with a best throw of 20.19 for her 11th victory in as many outdoor events in 2022 that included five wins on the professional track and field circuit and three over Mitton.

Mitton's season featured indoor and outdoor Canadian records, her second senior title at nationals and victories at the Commonwealth Games and NACAC Championships. The 26-year-old was also second and third, respectively, at Diamond League events in Stockholm and Silesia, Poland.

WATCH | Mitton wins Commonwealth Games gold:

Nova Scotia's Sarah Mitton shot puts to Commonwealth Games gold

4 months ago
Duration 3:57
Sarah Mitton of Brooklyn, N.S. managed a 19.03-metre throw to edge Jamaica's Danniel Thomas-Dodd and claim shot put gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.

In other action, Django Lovett, who won his second Canadian title in men's high jump earlier this summer, placed third with a 2.27-metre clearance.

The 30-year-old from Surrey, B.C., made good on his first attempts from 2.15 metres, 2.21, 2.24 and 2.27. He proceeded to miss on his first try at 2.30, re-entered the competition at 2.32 and missed twice before calling it a day.

Last month, Lovett cleared 2.25 to win at NACAC and was also victorious at one of five Diamond League competitions and sixth at worlds.

Arop, the world's No. 2-ranked 800 runner, placed fifth in one minute 44.48 seconds last week in Brussels. It was the 2022 Canadian champion's first race since the world final on July 23 in Eugene, Ore., where the Edmonton native became only the second Canadian man in history to win a world medal in the distance.

Arop, 23, has a pair of top-three finishes on the Diamond League circuit this season, including a win on May 21 in Birmingham, England. In early August, he was second to world 1,500 champion Jake Wightman of Great Britain in a 1,000 race in Monaco. Wightman is in the field for Thursday's 800 at 3:31 p.m. ET.

WATCH l Breaking down what sets apart Arop from the pack:

What makes Marco Arop so fast?

5 months ago
Duration 3:49
The Canadian runner is an up-and-coming force in the 800-metres. Olympian and coach Geoff Harris breaks down what sets him apart.

International storylines

Newly crowned world 100 champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will continue her quest to break Florence Griffith-Joyner's 10.49-second women's world record from 1988. Expect American Sha'Carri Richardson and fellow Jamaican Shericka Jackson to contend for the Diamond League Trophy. Jackson beat Fraser-Pryce by 1-100th of a second (10.73-10.74) in Brussels. The race is slated for Thursday at 2:23 p.m. ET.

WATCH | Sprinter Jackson hands Fraser-Pryce rare loss in Brussels:

Jamaica's Shericka Jackson sprints to 100m Diamond League Brussels victory

3 months ago
Duration 4:00
Shericka Jackson won the women's 100-metre race at the Diamond League event in Brussels with a time of 10.73 seconds, edging out fellow countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce by 0.01 seconds.

Armand 'Mondo' Duplantis will attempt to improve on his 6.21-metre world-record clearance at worlds this summer. He suffered his first defeat of 2022 in Brussels, where John Ernest Obiena cleared 5.91 on his third and final attempt. The 22-year-old Duplantis has topped six metres in 14 of his 17 victories this season. Thursday's event is at 1:40 p.m. ET.

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.

(CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Faceoff.com. Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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