Canadian runner Arop 'happy but not satisfied' with 3rd podium finish in 10 days
Places 2nd behind 2019 world champ Donavan Brazier at Stockholm Diamond League
Edmonton's Marco Arop was overtaken by 2019 world champion and U.S. record-holder Donavan Brazier down the straightaway Sunday in an impressive second-place performance in the men's 800 metres at the Stockholm Diamond League track and field meet.
Arop, 21, went out hard at a sun-splashed Stockholm Olympic Stadium and sat second behind Slovenia's Zan Rudolf until taking the lead at 500 metres, with Sweden's Andreas Kramer and Brazier close behind.
The Canadian remained in front until Brazier accelerated on the outside down the stretch and crossed the line in one minute 43.76 seconds for his third victory in 10 days. Arop followed in 1:44.67 and Kramer in a season-best 1:45.04.
"I did exactly what I came to do. I just didn't hold it through to the finish," Arop said. "I thought I had [the win] but I was tightening up towards the end and that's something I've still got to work on.
"I was happy with second place but not satisfied."
WATCH | Marco Arop places 2nd behind reigning 800m world champ:
The Sudan-born Arop, making his debut at the Bauhaus-galan meet, was fresh off a second-place showing Wednesday at the Irena Szewinska Memorial in Bydgoszcz, Poland, where he crossed the line in 1:45.75. On Aug. 14, Arop ran a personal-best 1:44.14 for third in his season debut at Diamond League Monaco.
Brazier set a season world-leading time that day of 1:43.15, coming off a 2019 campaign during which the 2016 NCAA champion set an American indoor 800 record, the world's fastest indoor 600 in history, his first Diamond League win, a repeat national title and the Diamond League Final title.
WATCH | Arop sets personal-best time in Monaco:
"Donavan can win going out fast or slow," Arop told CBC Sports recently of Brazier, who was near the back of the pack early in Sunday's race before taking charge. "With guys like Donavan, it doesn't matter how the race plays out, I'm always going to learn something."
Arop announced in December he was foregoing his NCAA eligibility at Mississippi State University to turn professional and spent the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic with his family in Edmonton, where he found secluded areas in the city with hills to run.
He'll now return to the U.S. to quarantine for 14 days with a return to training planned for September while resuming the life of a student-athlete.
"I've still got a year and a half left [at school]," said Arop, who is majoring in Business Information Systems. "This fall, our school is still planning on having in-class [instruction]. I don't know how that's going to work. I'm sort of playing along with it."
The six-foot-four Arop cited a slight increase in his training volume and an ability to stay focused while recovering from a hamstring injury early in 2019 for a breakout season that featured a Pan Am gold medal and seventh-place finish in his world final debut last October in Doha, Qatar.
'I've been going hard since April'
In February 2019, Arop ran 1:45.90 indoors to break the Canadian record and set a school mark.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Canadian hurdler Sage Watson concluded her brief outdoor season with a fifth-place finish in the women's 400 event. She stopped the clock in 56.31 seconds, four days after placing third in 56.29 at a World Athletics Continental Tour stop in Székesfehérvar, Hungary.
"It wasn't my best [performance] but it's only my second race of the season," said Watson. "I'm not too disappointed, just happy to be here and get the chance to race."
The national record-holder from Medicine Hat, Alta., will rest for five weeks before returning to train in October in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics that were postponed from this summer until next July.
WATCH | Hurdler Sage Watson ends season with 5th-place finish:
"I've had really good time trials this year in training and have been going hard since April on the track hurdling," said the third-year pro. "This is normally the time we would call it quits [for the season] and I want to give my body the chance to recover for a full month."
Watson spent the first four months of the pandemic connecting to her roots and enjoying a much-needed mental break at her family ranch in the Alberta hamlet of Seven Persons.
Lowering Canadian record 'main goal'
When the 26-year-old wasn't working out on a gravel road, she reflected on her "finally" moment in the semifinals of the 2019 world championships when Watson broke Rosey Edeh's 23-year Canadian record.
WATCH | Watson breaks 23-year-old Canadian record at 2019 worlds:
"It wasn't a surprise but more like finally I got this record that I've been training so hard for," said Watson, who posted a time of 54.32 seconds in Doha, 7-100ths faster than Edeh in the 1996 Olympic final at Atlanta. "This past year, I've been thinking of how low I can get this record. That's my main goal.
"I think, for sure, I'll be able to run 53 seconds. I don't know when that'll be but I'm definitely capable of that. I think 52-high is possible, too. It's a matter of continuing to stay healthy, staying on top of my training and making sure I'm getting in good competitions."
Looking to Tokyo, Watson said she'll be more focused on the task at hand than during her 2016 Olympic debut in Rio, where she said she was in awe, failed to make the final and placed 11th overall.