Aaron Brown captures his 1st Diamond League 100-metre race, beating Yohan Blake
Adds 100 relay victory in England, where fellow Canadians Arop, Lovett also prevail
A late addition to the men's 100-metre field, Toronto sprinter Aaron Brown came on strong near the finish line to win his first-ever Diamond League race in the distance on Saturday in England.
Brown ran 10.13 seconds into a slight headwind at Alexander Stadium after American Trayvon Bromell and reigning European champion Zharnel Hughes of Great Britain were disqualified for false starts.
Jamaica's Yohan Blake was second in 10.18 at the Müller Birmingham meet, followed by his cousin Jerome Blake (10.20) and the latter's Canadian teammate Andre De Grasse (10.24).
"False starts happen and I've been in races like that before, so I just focus on my cues and wait for the [start] gun," Brown, who clocked 10.23 earlier in the day in a "B" race, told CBC Sports. "I knew people would be apprehensive after the false starts so I just told myself to still go for it like nothing happened and I should get a good start."
WATCH | Brown victorious in 1st men's 100m of Diamond League season:
Brown, who replaced injured Marvin Bracy of the United States, changed his approach entering the outdoor season and wanted to run more 100s and fewer 200s — his signature event — to find a better balance and keep his body "feeling fresh" ahead of the July 15-24 world championships in Eugene, Ore.
Saturday's race was his fourth 100 of 2022, matching his total for last season, while he's taken the line twice this season in the 200.
"I've put a lot of work in the 100 and I know I'm a rhythm runner," he said, "so the more I race the better I'll be. … I'm so pleased with how [it's] played out so far."
1st relay since reaching Olympic podium
Brown's previous best showing in a Diamond League 100 was third (10.07) on July 5, 2019 in Lausanne, Switzerland. He was also fifth last July in Stockholm (10.18) on the heels of a third consecutive Canadian title.
The three-time Olympian opened the Diamond League season a week ago in the 200 in Doha, Qatar, placing fifth after finishing fourth in the 2021 Diamond League Final and sixth in the 2020 Olympic final in Tokyo.
Later Saturday, Brendon Rodney, Brown, Blake and De Grasse posted a winning time of 38.31 seconds in the men's 4x100 relay — a non-Diamond League points race — over France (38.41) and Great Britain (38.66).
Saturday's relay event was the first time the Canadian men had shared the track in nine months since crossing the finish line third at the Olympics in Tokyo. They were rained out at the Florida Relays in early April.
WATCH | Why Brown thinks track & field business needs overhaul:
Earlier this week, Brown said he believed they could run under 38 seconds in Birmingham with clean handoffs, the team's downfall and "the difference between bronze and gold" in the Olympic final when Italy clocked 37.70 ahead of Great Britain (37.51).
"Relay was a solid effort overall [on Saturday]," said Brown, who ran the first leg. "I actually cramped really bad before the race, with the relay being my third of the day. I thought it may dissipate by the time we raced but it actually picked up, so I suspect my run wasn't as strong as it could've been. The rest of the team did well to get the win."
Brown added they won't race again until the world championships.
On Thursday, the International Olympic Committee rubber-stamped Brown and company's Olympic upgrade to silver following a meeting of the executive board. Great Britain was disqualified following CJ Ujah's doping violation.
It's been a slow start to the Diamond League campaign in the individual events for De Grasse, who looked strong in anchoring Canada to its relay victory.
He was also fourth in Doha in the 200, the event in which the Markham, Ont., athlete earned his lone Olympic gold over two Summer Games, last year in Japan. But the man with six Olympic medals has a knack for shining on the track when it matters most.
"I feel that I'm getting back in shape," De Grasse said a week ago. "My goal for the world championships [in Oregon in July] is to get a medal."
WATCH | De Grasse anchors Canada to men's relay win in England:
In the women's relay, Great Britain delivered a meet record and season world-leading time of 42.29 to edge the Canadian foursome of Khamica Bingham, Jacqueline Madogo, Leya Buchanan and Sade McCreath, who clocked 43.03. Jamaica held the previous meet mark of 43.80 from August 1992.
WATCH | Brits pull out women's relay victory over Canada:
Arop dominant over 800 metres
Elsewhere, Edmonton's Marco Arop rebounded in the men's 800, getting the better of Frenchman Benjamin Robert in a winning time of 1:45.41 for his third career Diamond League win. Last week in Doha, the 23-year-old Arop was third in his outdoor season opener in the event, clocking 1:49.51 in a slow race.
Eighth through 400 metres in Birmingham, Arop made his move to the outside and took the lead with 200 remaining, widened the gap around the final bend and was alone in front on the straightaway, beating Robert by about five metres.
WATCH | Arop dominates field in men's 800m:
Ranked third in the world, Arop will be looking for redemption at his second worlds after failing to advance to the Olympic final in Tokyo. Before then, he will attempt to break Brandon McBride's Canadian record after coming within 6-100ths of a second in 1:43.26 at Diamond League Monaco last July.
Bryce Hoppel of the United States was third on Saturday in a season-best 1:46.33 after finishing 15th at his first Olympics last year.
High jumper Django Lovett of Surrey, B.C., took Saturday's men's event with a 2.28-metre clearance, defeating Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi (2.25) and Norbert Kobielski (2.25) of Poland.
WATCH | Lovett leaps to victory in Birmingham:
Lovett, who cleared 2.27 for third in Doha, captured his first Canadian title a year ago with a 2.33 personal-best before placing eighth (2.30) in his Olympic debut.
Lindsey Butterworth of North Vancouver, B.C. returned to Diamond League action in the women's 800 for the first time since her 2018 debut at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. She was seventh in the field of 10, stopping the clock in 2:01.20.
Inching towards world standard
Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain topped the field in 1:58.63, ahead of Renelle Lamote (1:59.53) of France and Jamaica's Natoya Goule (2:00.13).
Butterworth was coming off a 1:59.59 season-best — 9-100ths of a second shy of the 2022 women's world championship standard — at the Sound Running Track Meet on May 6 in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. Earlier this year indoors, she set personal bests in the 800 (2:01.45) and mile (4:40.00) , and was sixth in the 800 (2:03.21) at the world championships in March.
WATCH | Butterworth 7th in women's 800 after 3-year Diamond League absence:
The difference already this season for the 29-year-old compared to her pre-Olympic competitions a year ago, according to her coach, is being part of a deep field at several championship-calibre races.
"[She] did not get the opportunity [last year] in North America to practice the [necessary] tactics and strategies before [her first Games] due to COVID-19 restrictions," Brit Townsend, the head coach of track and field and cross-country at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., told CBC Sports recently. "Most of the races she ran, there was maybe one or two people in the race better than her.
"I think Lindsey was disappointed with her [32nd overall] result in Tokyo because she was more ready than ever [to advance from the heats]. I think that fueled her [for this season] because she had run 1:59 twice [in 2021] and had a great pre-Olympic camp."
While confident Butterworth will achieve the world standard, Townsend said the 18th-ranked runner also has a lot of world ranking points to help in qualifying.
"Our goal for worlds is to make the final," said Townsend a two-time Olympian in the 800. "Her training has been really consistent. We have to keep trying to find [race] experiences ahead [of worlds] that challenge her, make her work, make her think about strategy and how she's going to win the race."
In other notable events:
- Britain's 200 world champion Dina Asher-Smith finished strongly to seal a tight women's 100 race at 11.11 seconds, edging Jamaica's Shericka Jackson by 1-100th. Briton Daryll Neita took bronze with 11.14. Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah had pulled out of the meet earlier this week after the Jamaican experienced discomfort in training.
- Tokyo 1,500 silver medallist Laura Muir marked her first race of the season following a back problem with a solid show to claim gold in the women's event, ahead of Australia's Jessica Hull and Kenya's Winny Chebet.
- Jamaica's Hansle Parchment won the men's 110 hurdles with a 2022 world-leading 13.09 seconds, while Ethiopia's Dawit Seyaum set a meet record with 14:47.55 en route to the women's 5,000 gold.
The Diamond League season resumes next Saturday at the Prefontaine Classic from Eugene, Ore., beginning at 4 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.
With files from Reuters