Track and field worlds: Canada 'genuine threat' for multiple medals
Rookie head coach Glenroy Gilbert hoping team builds off strong Olympic performance
The track and field world championships begin Friday (CBCSports.ca, 12:50 p.m. ET) with some of Canada's 57 athletes legitimate contenders for a podium finish and looking to help the team build on its record eight-medal performance of two years ago in Beijing.
Legendary sprinter Usain Bolt of Jamaica will also call it a career in London, England, where he will try to add to his 13 world championship medals when he competes in the 100 metres.
A much-anticipated showdown with Canada's Andre De Grasse was scuttled Wednesday with news the latter suffered a grade 2 hamstring injury this week in training. The injury will also keep De Grasse out of the 200 and 4x100 relay events.
- Andre De Grasse injures hamstring, will miss worlds
- 57 Canadians named for track and field worlds
- SCHEDULE: Track and field worlds on CBC Sports
Will high jumper Derek Drouin return from an Achilles injury to successfully defend his 2015 world title, along with fellow Canadian and pole vaulter Shawn Barber?
Can Damian Warner take the next step in decathlon and improve upon his Olympic bronze-medal finish?
Once again, the London, Ont., native and his Canadian teammates will carry a "we belong" mentality into London Stadium. It's a far cry from Canada's 2009 and 2011 squads that brought home a combined two medals.
"When you step up to compete, it's no longer [a feeling of being] in awe of other athletes. It's about going out and competing hard," hurdler and Canadian co-captain Phylicia George told CBC Sports on a recent conference call with reporters.
"A lot of people in the world are taking notice of [Canadians]. They know we're genuine threats and here to compete, not just participate."
Retired sprinter Glenroy Gilbert, whom Athletics Canada named head coach for worlds and made it a permanent appointment in July, is hoping the team can reach a double-digit medal count in London by converting the fourth-place finishes from last summer's Rio Olympics, where Canada medalled six times.
Melissa Bishop was fourth in the women's 800 metres, matching Jenny Thompson's best placing from 1928. On the men's side, Mo Ahmed's fourth in the 5,000 was a big improvement on the previous Canadian best of eighth, while Evan Dunfee crossed the line fourth in the 50-kilometre race walk.
London breaks attendance record
"If athletes focus more on the task rather than the end result," said Gilbert, "then the end result with speak for itself. We want the athletes to come away not only with a great experience, but a personal best [result] also counts, and goes a long way in preparing athletes further in our sport."
London will be the biggest world championships in history as ticket sales topped 660,000 last week, far exceeding the 2009 record gathering of 417,156 in Berlin. The first three nights of competition in England will be preceded by ceremonies to reallocate medals previously won by those that later failed a drug test.
5 TOP CANADIANS TO WATCH
Shawn Barber — pole vault
He has struggled with consistency this season but remains competitive. On July 21, Barber jumped a season-best 5.72 metres in Monaco, matching the height of rival and current world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France and topping the 5.71 he achieved at the Prefontaine Classic in late May to meet the 5.70 world qualifying standard. (Final Aug. 8, 2:35 pm ET)
Melissa Bishop — 800m
Fresh off her fourth Canadian title to qualify for worlds, the 28-year-old from Eganville, Ont., clocked one minute 57.01 seconds on July 21 in Monaco to break her national record of 1:57.02. Bishop, who wants to break the 1:57 mark, has shaved more than 2.5 seconds from her outdoor season debut (1:59.52) in May. (Final Aug. 13 at 3:10 pm ET)
Derek Drouin — high jump
The defending world champion hasn't competed since an Achilles injury "flared up" on June 15 at the Bislett Games in Norway, where Drouin tied for third with a jump of 2.25 metres. The 2016 Rio Olympic champion matched the world standard of 2.30 in April but has since struggled to reach that mark. (Final Aug. 13 at 2 pm ET)
Evan Dunfee — 50km race walk
Dunfee hasn't stopped since his controversial fourth-place finish at the Rio Olympics. In May, the 26-year-old walked the Vancouver Marathon and finished 133rd and the next month cracked the top 100 at the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon. (Final Aug. 13 at 2:45 am ET)
Damian Warner — decathlon
Warner, 27, has enjoyed success at the world championships, winning bronze in 2013 and silver two years later. In Rio, the London, Ont., native became the first Canadian since 1988 to capture a bronze medal. He followed that in May with a third career Hypo Meeting title, finishing 104 points shy of his own Canadian record (8,695). (Begins Aug. 11 at 5 am ET, ends Aug. 12 at 3:45 pm)
OTHER CANADIANS TO WATCH
Mo Ahmed — 5,000 & 10,000
In early May, Ahmed ran a personal-best 27 minutes 30 seconds in the 10,000, surpassing his previous mark by more than four seconds. He'll try to improve on a 12th-place finish in the 5,000 at the 2015 worlds (14:00.38). His best this season is 13:08.16. (10,000 final Friday at 4:20 pm ET; 5,000 Aug. 12 at 3:20 pm)
Crystal Emmanuel — 100 & 200
The 25-year-old from Toronto shattered Marita Payne-Wiggins's 34-year-old record in the 200 (22.62 seconds) with a 22.50 clocking in Ireland three weeks ago (see video below) after winning gold in the 100 and 200 at the Canadian championships. (200 final Aug. 11 at 4:50 pm ET)
Justyn Knight — 5,000
The Syracuse University junior finished third at the NCAA Division I championships in June, one month after the Toronto native set a world standard and broke a Syracuse record with a personal-best time of 13 minute 17.51 seconds in California. (Final Aug. 12 at 3:20 pm ET)
Brandon McBride — 800
McBride ran a season-best one minute 44.41 seconds on July 21 in Monaco to inch closer to Gary Reed's Canadian record of 1:43.68. The 23-year-old clocked 1:46.40 to open the season after finishing 14th at the Rio Olympics. (Final Aug. 8 at 4:35 pm ET)
Christabel Nettey — long jump
The 26-year-old Canadian record holder (6.99 metres) threatened that mark with a season-best 6.92 on June 17 in Chula Vista, Calif., and last month jumped 6.63 at a Diamond League meet in London, England. She finished fourth (6.95) at the 2015 worlds. (Final Aug. 11 at 2:10 pm ET)
5 INTERNATIONAL ATHLETES TO WATCH
Usain Bolt —100 & 4x100
The eight-time Olympic gold medallist clocked 9.79 seconds in 2015 for his third 100m world title, defeating Justin Gatlin and Canada's Andre De Grasse. Bolt prevailed over the pair again in 9.81 at the Rio Olympics (see video below) but this season the 35-year-old eclipsed 10 seconds for the first time in a winning performance (9.95) at Diamond League Monaco on July 21. (100 final Saturday at 4:45 pm ET; relay final Aug. 12 at 4:50 pm)
Mo Farah — 5,000 & 10,000
The British distance runner will try to become the first athlete in history to win three consecutive world championship doubles. The 34-year-old Farah, who returns to the scene of the first leg of his Olympic double-double (2012, 2016), will retire from the track after competing in the 5,000 Diamond League final on Aug. 24 in Zurich. (10,000 final Friday at 4:20 pm ET; 5,000 on Aug. 12 at 3:20 pm)
Kendra Harrison — 100 hurdles
She will try to make her American fans forget about her false start in the semifinals at worlds two years ago and failure to make the U.S. team for the Rio Olympics. Harrison, 24, has run 12.28 seconds in 2017, just eight hundredths of a second outside the world record. (Final Aug. 12 at 3:05 pm ET)
Caster Semenya — 800 & 1,500
The reigning Olympic champion and two-time world gold medallist boasts a world-leading time of 1:55.27 this season, nearly two seconds faster than Melissa Bishop's Canadian record of 1:57.01. The 26-year-old South African is also entered to run the 1,500 against Kenya's Faith Kipyegon and Ethiopia's Genzebe Dibaba, who finished 1-2 at the Rio Olympics. (800 final Aug. 13 at 3:10 pm ET; 1,500 final Aug. 7 at 4:50 pm)
Wayde van Niekerk — 200 & 400
Considered the heir apparent to Usain Bolt as the iconic figure in athletics, Van Niekerk first made his mark at worlds in 2015, defeating American LaShawn Merritt in 43.48 seconds. The South African ran 43.03 in Rio to break Michael Johnson's world record, and boasts a season and personal best of 19.84 in the 200. (400 final, Aug. 8 at 4:50 pm ET)