Track and Field

Crew, McBride believe skipping athletics Olympic trials to rest, rehab injuries may give them edge in Tokyo

Canadian medal contenders Brittany Crew and Brandon McBride won't risk an injury setback by competing at the track and field Olympic trials later this week in Montreal, where they would have tried to defend their respective Canadian titles in shot put and 800 metres, respectively.

Canadians won't risk a setback ahead of Summer Games

Shot putter Brittany Crew, left, and middle-distance runner Brandon McBride will not defend their Canadian titles later this week at the track and field Olympic trials in Montreal as they continue their recovery from injury ahead of the Summer Games in Tokyo next month. (Getty Images/Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press/File)

Brittany Crew and Brandon McBride are taking a positive approach to their injury recovery, believing the added rest could give them an edge at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

While both medal contenders are training, they won't risk a setback by competing at the track and field Olympic trials later this week in Montreal, where they would have tried to defend their respective Canadian titles in shot put and 800 metres, respectively.

"Nationals is not important right now," Crew told CBC Sports recently. "I don't need to embarrass or re-injure myself. I've mentally prepared that the Olympics could be my first meet back … but this [right] ankle injury has progressed fast."

The 27-year-old Crew suffered a Grade 2 strain in a "freak accident" on her first throw at the Tucson Elite Classic on May 20 in Arizona. Her left foot hit the toe board, slid and shifted Crew's weight, putting all the force on the right ankle. She remembered hearing a pop and felt numb.

"I thought the shot landed on my foot," said Crew, who threw a season-best 18.19 metres six days earlier in Azusa, Calif. "I was throwing very well in the warmup [in Tucson]. My half-turn was 17 metres — usually I'm around 16 — so I felt I was going to [throw] over 19, but I was a little too hyped up and went a little too fast [in my approach].

"I'm so thankful I didn't break my ankle because I'd probably be out of the Olympics."

Crew is no stranger to injury:

  • About 10 days before her 2016 Olympic debut in Rio, the Toronto resident rolled the outside of her left ankle on the toe board. Competing at less than full health at the Summer Games, Crew didn't advance to the final and placed 18th overall.
  • In August 2018, she sprained her right ankle and suffered a spiral fracture in the fifth metatarsal of her right foot while training in Belgium a week before the NACAC championships in Toronto.
  • And last December, Crew strained the adductor muscles on the inside of her left thigh, an injury that lingered for the better part of two months.

"It's been my worst year for injuries," said Crew, who achieved the 18.50 Olympic standard in 2019. "I was so stressed, everyone was throwing far, and I wanted to show people I could, too," said Crew, who holds the Canadian record for women at 19.28 from Sept. 1, 2019.

Strong support

Fortunately, she has been guided by a strong support team that includes coach Rich Parkinson and physiotherapist Ron O'Hare, who has helped Crew return to the circle quickly and progress to a half-turn rotation drill last week.

"I can't tell you how good my body feels now. I needed a break," said Crew. "I'm going to be super excited to compete again and I'm going to be fresh.

"Everyone else [in shot put] is gearing up for Olympic trials in Canada and the United States but I don't know if they can do it again with the Olympics so close. How do you peak twice [in four weeks]?"

The time off has allowed Crew to address a weakness with blocking, the point at which the thrower is in their delivery stance and the non-throwing side of the body is stopped and locked in place. From there, it acts as a pivot point for the throwing side of the body to accelerate to release the shot.

"I'm going to rely on my world-class experience and what I've achieved [the past five years]. I've been a top-eight finisher in the last two world championships and there's no difference to [competing] at an Olympics," she said. "If I can pull it together, I think I can get a medal."

McBride experienced dysfunctional movement

McBride, also 27, has experienced dysfunctional movement in his hips and pelvis at various times the past two months that caused hamstring issues. The middle-distance runner has felt much better since the beginning of June following a return to his native Windsor, Ont., and working with his regular physiotherapist and chiropractor after training in the United States.

McBride, like Crew, understands the importance of a strong support group and is grateful how his body has responded to recent treatment from physiotherapist Mary Brannagan and Dr. John Vargo, a chiropractic sports injury specialist.

One thing I've learned is, experience always shows in [major] championship events.— Brandon McBride on not having raced in nearly 2 years

McBride said it was like "throwing darts at a dart board" for U.S. doctors to diagnose and treat his injuries after he moved in late January to train in Starkville at Mississippi State University, his alma mater, when COVID-19 restrictions kept doors locked at the University of Windsor.

"My body wasn't 100 per cent and functioning to the level I could get in quality training," said McBride, who has spent part of the pandemic working to complete his master's in business from Wayne State University in Detroit. "It was very frustrating, especially when you're preparing for the biggest event of your life."

The good news is McBride is preparing for the 800 at the Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix on July 6 in Budapest. It would represent the Canadian record holder's first race since the disappointment of not advancing from the semifinals at the world championships on Sept. 29, 2019.

McBride, who ran under the 1:45.20 Olympic standard in his 2019 season opener, is also on the waiting list for Diamond League meets in Monaco (July 9) and Muller British Grand Prix in Gateshead, England (July 13).

While he hasn't raced a lot in any season as a professional runner, McBride admitted there is some concern having not competed in nearly two years.

"As history shows, I'm usually a strong mid-season athlete and maybe the Olympics is my mid-season," said McBride, who missed qualifying for the 2016 Olympic final by 1.25 seconds. "I have a lot in the tank and one of the things I love about this sport is you never know what's going to happen.

"I've noticed a lot of seasoned 800-metre runners have only raced one time outdoors [in 2021] and it seems the younger guys [like Canada's Marco Arop] are primed to compete. But one thing I've learned is, experience always shows in [major] championship events."

WATCH | Answers to key questions surrounding the Tokyo Olympics:

Answers to key questions surrounding Tokyo Olympics

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There’s less than 100 days to go until the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are full steam ahead despite the pandemic. Here are the answers to the biggest questions surrounding the competition.


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 Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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