Arop 'hungrier than ever' to become Canada's 1st Diamond League champion since 2011

World champion Marco Arop is ready to achieve another season goal on Sunday, joining Aaron Brown and Andre De Grasse in pursuit of becoming Canada's first Diamond League champion since 2011.

World champ 2nd in 800m last year; Brown, De Grasse also race Sunday in 200m

Two men's middle-distance runners sprint to the finish line at a Diamond League meet in Xiamen, China.
Marco Arop of Edmonton will attempt to upend Kenya's Emmanuel Wanyonyi, the world’s top-ranked 800-metre runner, in Sunday's race at the Diamond League Final. Arop, who is ranked second, is coming of a personal-best time of one minute 43.24 seconds at a Diamond League meet in Xiamen, China. (Aly Song/Reuters)

World champion Marco Arop admits he needs to learn how to celebrate his running accomplishments. Although he let loose with a gold-medal victory lap at the National Athletics Centre three weeks ago in Budapest, his mind quickly wandered to his next race.

"It's funny, I'm not too big on celebrations. But I can't celebrate just yet," said Arop, who was second in a men's 800-metre race a week after worlds at a Diamond League track and field meet in Xiamen, China.

Arop conceded he has reflected "for a few moments" on his first world title, which he wrote on paper as a season goal earlier this year.

"It's the best validation that everything I've worked so hard for pays off and reinforces the idea that I can't change the approach," he told CBC Sports while preparing for the two-day Prefontaine Classic Diamond League Final this weekend in Eugene, Ore.

Ranked second in the world, the Edmonton native qualified fourth for Sunday's eight-man race at 3:04 p.m. ET. Live streaming begins at 3 p.m. on, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.

WATCH | Arop captures 800m gold for 2nd straight world medal: 

Canada's Marco Arop speeds to 800m gold at the worlds

26 days ago
Duration 4:10
The Edmonton runner captured Canada's first-ever gold medal in the 800 meters after a dominant second lap.

On Monday, Arop was busy with coach Chris Woods analyzing the China race while battling the tail end of a cold he picked up after the competition.

Even though Arop ran a personal-best one minute 43.24 seconds — only 4-100ths of a second behind winner and world No. 1 Emmanuel Wanyonyi of Kenya — he and Woods determined, if not for some minor mistakes, he could have beat this year's world silver medallist and moved closer to Brandon McBride's 1:43.20 Canadian record.

"Some things he can clean up that'll put him in the right direction for Eugene," said Woods, a former 800 runner who has guided Arop since 2019 when he became coach of the Mississippi State University track team. "He got clipped around 400 metres and I think he could have run better tactically.

"At this level, a tiny mistake can cost you a tenth of a second. We're constantly learning."

WATCH | Arop runs personal-best 1:43.24 at Xiamen Diamond League:

Marco Arop finishes 2nd with a personal best at the Xiamen Diamond League event

19 days ago
Duration 5:04
Freshly minted world champion Marco Arop sets a personal best time of 1:43.24 and finishes 2nd in the men's 800-metre event in Xiamen, China. Kenyan Emmanuel Wanyonyi won with a time of 1:43.20.

Last September, Arop was fresh off earning world bronze when he made a move with one lap to go at the Diamond League Final in Zurich. He led into the final straight but was caught by Kenya's Emmanuel Korir fewer than 10 metres from the finish line, placing second to the reigning Olympic champion in a season-best 1:43.38. He was fourth in 2021, clocking 1:45.23.

Since his freshman year at MSU, Arop has had to work on his final 100 metres, trying to figure out his last kick or push.

"In so many races, I'll be feeling great the last 200, 150, 100 [metres] and the last 50 I start to break down or [break] form. Part of it can be mental," the 24-year-old said. "Maybe it's trying too hard to get to the finish line. I had the lead and great momentum [last year in Zurich] going into the final curve.

"I remember thinking, 'Just hold form' and hearing the noise level of the crowd rise. I knew somebody was [gaining ground on me]. In that moment, I got a little worked up, tried to strain or work harder. There's a fine balance where you want to push but not overdo it. It's getting better but there's still so much I could improve."

The recent world final, during which Arop was "very tactical," was one of his more intelligent races, according to Woods.

He has the potential, historically, to be one of the greatest two-lap athletes.— Coach Chris Woods on Canadian 800-metre runner/world champion Marco Arop

"He stayed composed and didn't let the moment become bigger than him and his goal," the coach said. "You could see the maturity, 1,000 per cent."

Woods noted the last four or five years of race experience and the confidence Arop has gained has led to him finding ways to win races, whether it's outkicking people in the last 100m or taking a race out fast and holding people off.

"The easiest week I've had coaching Marco was the 10 days we were in Budapest," added Woods. "He was so sure of himself.

"Marco has an incredibly high ceiling. We haven't done a lot of speed work the past couple of years. He has the potential, historically, to be one of the greatest two-lap athletes."

Should Arop be crowned Diamond League champion, which includes a trophy and $30,000 US in prize money, he would be Canada's first since shot putter Dylan Armstrong in 2011.

"I feel last year was so close," he said, "and it left me hungrier than ever. Worlds is great and everything above it, but to end the season as a Diamond League champion would solidify this year as my greatest.

"To end the season on a good note would motivate me more. Once I'm at the top, I've got to work twice as hard to stay there."

Brown, De Grasse fresh off season bests

Relay teammates Aaron Brown and Andre De Grasse also race Sunday at Hayward Field in the men's 200 at 5:36 p.m. ET.

They geared up for the Final with their fastest races over 200m in two years — 19.89 and 19.98 seconds, respectively last week in Brussels.

"It was exactly what I needed and came at a great time because it reinforced my belief about the type of shape I'm in and what's possible for me going into [the 2024 Paris Olympics]," said Brown, who was disqualified in the 200 at worlds due to a lane infringement.

When asked what contributed to running under 20 seconds for the first time since his 19.99 in the Tokyo Olympic semifinals on Aug. 3, 2021, Brown said: "Running relaxed and not letting my surroundings dictate my execution. I got in the habit of reacting to my opponents and I am working on getting back to focusing on my own lane, managing my emotions and [race] execution."

De Grasse, who won Olympic gold two years ago, was sixth (20.43) in last year's season-ending race after battling COVID-19 and a toe injury. The 28-year-old Markham, Ont., sprinter was second in the sprint double at the 2021 Final.

WATCH | Is De Grasse saving his season-best race for Eugene?

Will Andre De Grasse run his best race of the season at Diamond League Final? | Athletics North

7 days ago
Duration 4:15
Andre De Grasse was finally able to run a season's-best sub-20 time at Diamond League Brussels to book a spot in this weekend's 200m final alongside fellow Canadian Aaron Brown. After a less than stellar season, will De Grasse be able to run his best race at the Diamond League Final?

Brown, 31, was second to Noah Lyles (19.52) in the 200 at last year's Final, clocking a 20.02 season best to edge Alex Ogando of the Dominican Republic in a photo finish. Brown had never finished among the top three in the event at the Final, placing fourth for four consecutive years from 2017-2021. 

"I've been to Hayward [Field] many times and the sense of familiarity is a great way to end the season," said Brown, adding he's excited the Final is in North American for the first time so his wife Preeya and son Kingsley can be in attendance.

"I hope [organizers] are able to leverage having worlds there last year into a big crowd [for Sunday's race]."

Mitton 2nd in Final shot put

Sarah Mitton of Brooklyn, N.S., was the lone elite Canadian athlete in action Saturday in Eugene.

The 27-year-old world silver medallist ended another spectacular shot put season with her 14th top-two finish in 17 events, placing second to American Chase Ealey in the Final, as she did a year ago.

Mitton, who had a best throw of 19.94 metres on Saturday, led the six-woman competition until Ealey stepped into the circle in the second round and threw a season world-leading 20.61, also a meet and United States record.

WATCH | Mitton throws 19.94m for 2nd at Diamond League Final:

Nova Scotia's Sarah Mitton claims shot put silver at world championships

26 days ago
Duration 1:12
Sarah Mitton of Brooklyn, N.S., finishes second in the women's shot put final at the World Athletics Championships with a distance of 20.08 metres.

After the 19.94 effort on her second throw, Mitton dropped to 19.79 on her third. She didn't record a measurement on her fourth before going 19.34 and 19.93 to end the competition.

"I think Sarah had an awesome series," said Rich Parkinson, her longtime coach. "She had an excellent day and I'm very proud of her."

Mitton secured one of six spots for the Final, throwing 19.76 in Brussels for second behind world No. 1 Ealey.

The Canadian record holder beat Ealey on June 15 at the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway, for her first Diamond League win before capturing a silver medal at the World Athletics Championships.

Mitton will take a break before returning to training Oct. 1 in preparation for the Pan Am Games, which run Oct. 20 through Nov. 5 in Santiago, Chile.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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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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