Canadian runner Andrea Seccafien advances to women's 5,000m final in Tokyo
Moh Ahmed places 6th in men's 10,000; Mitton, Crew fail to advance in shot put
Andrea Seccafien will have a chance to achieve the first of her two Olympic goals on the track in Tokyo — finish inside the top 10 in the women's 5,000-metre final.
In the stifling heat at Olympic Stadium, the Canadian grabbed the 15th and final qualifying spot by 38-100ths of a second in a time of 14 minutes 59.55 seconds on Friday. She clocked a personal-best 14:57.07 on May 29 in Oregon at the Portland Track Festival.
Seccafien, who was 11th in heats and 20th overall at her 2016 Olympic debut in Rio, will race for her first Summer Games medal on Aug. 2 at 8:40 a.m. ET, five days before she plans to run the 10,000 final.
Previously, the 30-year-old native of Guelph, Ont., said running two PBs in three days at the 2019 world championships put her on track for Tokyo. Seccafien, who moved to Australia in 2017 and trains with Melbourne Track Club, dipped under 15 minutes for the first time in Doha, Qatar, where she placed 13th in her first world final.
"You always want to finish higher, so the goal in Tokyo would be top eight or 10," Canada's record holder in women's half marathon told CBC Sports last November. "In Rio I was so green. I was making moves and wasting energy. Now, I feel I've learned how to run those [championship] races."
Throughout Friday's 12 ½-lap competition, Seccafien looked focused and relaxed running alongside world 1,500 record holder Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands with two laps remaining and sat 10th at the bell lap.
Hassan took charge over the final 400 metres, won the first of two group races and was the top qualifier in 14:47.89. Kenya's Agnes Jebet Tirop qualified second overall (14:48.01) and Senbere Teferi of Ethiopia third (14:48.31).
First-time Olympians Kate Van Buskirk of Toronto and Julie-Anne Staehli of Lucknow, Ont., finished 27th and 32nd of 36 finishers across the two groups in 15:14.96 and 15:33.39, respectively.
Ahmed led late in men's 5,000m final
Van Buskirk had a pre-Olympic goal of competing with Seccafien in the 5,000 final after they spent three months training together in Arizona and Switzerland ahead of the Games.
"From a training perspective, we've pushed each other a lot," Van Buskirk told CBC Sports in June. "[Seccafien's] professionalism is almost unparalleled in what I've seen in the sport. She's incredibly committed and very disciplined."
Also on Friday, Canada's Moh Ahmed appeared headed for his first Olympic medal but faded before the straightaway and crossed the line sixth in the men's 10,000, matching his result from 2019 worlds.
WATCH | Ahmed finishes 6th in men's 10,000:
Ahmed overtook eventual gold medallist Selemon Barega of Ethiopia for the lead inside the final two laps but Barega was back in front with 400 metres left at the bell lap. With his eyes bulging and gritting his teeth, the Bowerman Track Club athlete gave every ounce of energy over the final metres but couldn't hold pace on a warm and muggy evening in Japan.
"I think Moh did everything he could. I think he ran a sensible race, a really assured raced," analyst Dave Moorcroft told CBC Sports' Jamie Strashin in Tokyo. "At the bell he was in the right position, he just didn't have the legs."
The 30-year-old Ahmed stopped the clock in 27:47.76, or within 50 seconds of his 26:59.35 personal best and national record from worlds on Oct. 6, 2019, his most recent 10,000 before Friday. Ahmed was 32nd and last in the 10,000 final five years ago at the Rio Olympics in 29:32.84.
I think there's every chance at a medal in the [5,000 metres] but it'll be tough.— CBC Sports analyst Dave Moorcroft on Canadian runner Moh Ahmed
The Ugandan duo of world record holder Joshua Cheptegei (27:43.63) and Jacob Kiplimo (27:43.88) rounded out the podium.
Expect to see Ahmed in the 5,000 heats on Aug. 3, starting at 7 a.m. ET.
Two years ago at worlds, the Somalia-born, St. Catharines, Ont.-raised athlete stumbled after being clipped by an opponent late in the 5,000 final but recovered to reach the podium, earning a bronze medal in 13:01.11 in Doha.
WATCH | Ahmed: 'I wanted to … be a player' in the race:
"He'll bounce back for the 5,000 metres, he's got plenty of time to recover," Moorcroft said. "The 5,000 is probably his better distance but he will have the same dilemma of what if [the race] is slow [like Friday] and if [the race leaders are] going to do ridiculously fast laps, how can I be in the mix. In Doha, he managed to find that pace and be in the right place.
Shortest throw in nearly 3 years
"I think there's every chance of a medal in the 5[K] but it'll be tough. He rarely puts a foot wrong tactically and that's a great strength. The challenge is, how can [he] make sure [he has] the legs to be able to run that fast over the last lap to grab a medal."
On July 10, 2020, Ahmed lowered his own Canadian mark by 10 seconds in 12:47.20 and last month went 12:50.12 at a Diamond League meet in Florence, Italy.
Elsewhere, Canada will not have a woman advance to the women's shot put final for the first time after Sarah Mitton of Brooklyn, N.S., and Toronto's Brittany Crew struggled with the temperature hovering around 30 C.
Mitton was 14th of 16 athletes in her group with a best throw of 16.62 metres, the 25-year-old's shortest since her season finale in August 2018 (15.53) in Chorzow, Poland.
It also marked only the second time in 14 outdoor competitions this season the consistent Mitton has thrown under 18 metres. On May 14, she delivered an 18.89 PB in Azusa, Calif.
The 27-year-old Crew fouled all three of her attempts in only her second competition since she sprained her right ankle on May 20 at the Tucson Elite Classic in Arizona. The Canadian record holder (19.28) threw 17.65 on July 11 in Nova Scotia.
In late June, Crew didn't want to risk an injury setback and skipped Canadian Olympic trials in Montreal.
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. And about 10 days before her 2016 Olympic debut, she 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.
Lijiao Gong of China was Friday's top qualifier with a throw of 19.46.
WATCH | CBC Sports' Rob Pizzo offers 20 fun facts about Canada's athletics team: