Aaron Brown continues climb to elite sprinter status on Diamond League circuit
Canadian enters Stockholm meet fresh off 19.98-second personal best in 200m
Aaron Brown had a positive finish to the 2017 track season, rebounding from a lane violation at the world championships to run 20.30 seconds in the 200 metres at Birmingham, England, and then a season-best 20.17 at the Diamond League final in Brussels.
Behind the scenes, however, the Canadian sprinter's three-year relationship with coach Dennis Mitchell wasn't nearly as strong.
- Aaron Brown sets personal-best 200m time at Diamond League Oslo
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- Aaron Brown: 'Why not me?'
"At several points during the season I was telling him to do one thing and he was doing something else, so I knew there was a disconnect," Mitchell, the 1992 Olympic 100 bronze medallist, said over the phone from Florida.
"At the end of last season, Aaron and I came to an understanding that we're either going to get better or we're not. We had a couple of long conversations, set a serious plan on what we wanted to do and how we wanted to behave on the track, and he has stayed true to that 100 per cent."
A more confident and mature Brown is enjoying one of the most successful seasons of his career entering Sunday's Bauhaus-Galan meet in Stockholm (CBCSports.ca, 10 a.m. ET).
At Thursday's Bislett Games in Oslo, the 26-year-old Toronto native posted a personal-best 19.98 to finish second to Turkey's Ramil Guliyev (19.90) in the Diamond League race.
Mitchell, who also won relay gold at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, pointed out Brown is a more active participant this season at practice and has a better understanding of the process of why his coach has him lift weights a certain way and sprint at certain times of the year.
"His approach to training and professionalism as an athlete has kicked up a few notches," Mitchell said. "Aaron has always been a very talented individual capable of being one of the best sprinters in the world, but he needed to be a more active participant in the process."
Along with a more communicative relationship with his coach, Brown said running at nearly full strength has helped in his training after dealing with early-season injuries in recent years.
Winning a silver medal in the 200 at the Commonwealth Games in April has also presented Brown with more race options, allowing the 26-year-old to better balance his training and travel schedules.
.<a href="https://twitter.com/cgc_jcc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@cgc_jcc</a>'s burning up the track today! Aaron Brown turns on the jets down the stretch to take his semi-final heat in the Men's 200m in an impressive 20.18 seconds! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GC2018?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GC2018</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoldCoast2018?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoldCoast2018</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoldCoastGoldRush?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoldCoastGoldRush</a> <a href="https://t.co/7yUGzutJEj">pic.twitter.com/7yUGzutJEj</a>—@DAZN_CA
"I know exactly what my body needs, what works for me in training and what works for me in [physio] therapy," said Brown, who will race at 11:40 a.m. ET in Stockholm. "Having a good support system in place has been a big change and learning to be a better professional has translated into good performances."
In the past, Brown had a tendency to overthink in certain situations, something he said is part of his makeup away from the track.
"I really like to analyze things and sometimes I second-guess myself," said Brown. "It's not really so much the competition as it is my training. Sometimes, I trained too much and wasn't fully rested for a race and that would make me second-guess myself. But I've been in better sync with my coach this year, getting to the point that I'm confident for every race."
Prior to Thursday, Brown had run a season-best 20.07 at the recent 44th Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., where 2018 Commonwealth champion Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago passed him on the straightaway and finished in 20.05. American Noah Lyles won in a world-leading and personal-best 19.69.
Brown has spent the past two weeks focused on the first 100 metres of the 200 and trying to understand the importance of not decelerating mentally over the last 50 metres.
"The centrifugal force and tightness of the turn is something that has given him problems over the years," Mitchell said. "We had to make technical adjustments to make him feel comfortable and we've kind of cracked that code this season.
"The times he has shown in practice tells me he's in 19-second shape, easily, but he's still learning the nuances of racing these [elite] guys. We want Aaron competing well and if he does that, he will be one of the top three guys going into the Diamond League final and in contention for the trophy."
Other Canadians competing in Stockholm:
Shawn Barber, pole vault (Sunday, 9:38 a.m. ET): The Toronto native finished seventh at last week's Diamond League meet in Rome, clearing heights of 5.36 metres and 5.52 before missing all three attempts at 5.62. Barber's season best is 5.92.
Mo Ahmed, men's 5,000 (10:40 a.m.): Ahmed, 27, turned in a fourth-place finish (eight minutes 22.29 seconds) in the men's 2-mile run at the recent Prefontaine Classic. In April, he clocked a season-best 13:52.78 in winning a silver medal in the 5,000 at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Christabel Netty, women's long jump (10:45 a.m.): The Surrey, B.C., native reached the podium at an international event for the first time in three years at the Commonwealth Games in April, overcoming back soreness to jump 6.84 metres. Nettey, 27, previously won gold at the 2015 Pan Am Games.
Diamond League on CBC Sports
CBC Sports is providing live streaming coverage of all 14 Diamond League meets this season at CBCSports.ca and via the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices. TV coverage will be featured as part of the network's Road To The Olympic Games weekend broadcasts throughout the season.
The following is a list of upcoming Diamond League meets:
- Stockholm (Sunday, 10 a.m. ET)
- Paris (June 30, 2 p.m. ET)
- Lausanne (July 5, 2 p.m. ET)
- Rabat (July 13, 1 p.m. ET)
- Monaco (July 20, 2 p.m. ET)
- London (July 21-22, 10 a.m. ET, 9 a.m.)
- Birmingham (Aug. 18, 3 p.m. ET)
- Zurich (Aug. 30, 2 p.m. ET)
- Brussels (Aug. 31, 2 p.m. ET)