Track and Field·Preview

Canadian track and field's best aim to build on Olympic success at World Athletics Championships

Fifty-nine Canadians are part of the 1,900-plus elite track and field athletes from 192 countries who will descend on the illustrious Hayward Field at the University of Oregon as the World Athletics Championships begin Friday.

Key storylines for Canada's team as competition begins Friday

Canada's Damian Warner has his eyes on his first decathlon world championship when the competition begins Friday. (Rich Lam/Canadian Press)

For the first time, the World Athletics Championships is being held in the United States, with the University of Oregon's stunning Hayward Field playing host.

More than 1,900 elite track and field athletes from 192 international teams will descend on TrackTown USA, the nickname for the campus in Eugene, Ore., a nod to its illustrious history in athletics. Competition begins Friday and runs through July 24.

Canada is sending a team of 59 athletes to worlds — 34 women and 25 men — who have won a total of 15 Olympic medals. The Canadians are led by six-time Olympic sprint medallist Andre De Grasse, 2020 Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner, and Moh Ahmed, who won silver in the 5,000 metres in Tokyo last summer.

At the previous world championships in 2019 in Doha, Canada won five medals — one silver and four bronze. 

WATCH | Canada's track and field team a force in world athletics:

Canada's track and field team now a force in world athletics

5 months ago
Duration 3:38
After moments of brilliance throughout the years, Canada now has a track and field team full of depth, and ready to compete on the international stage.

Here are some key Canadian storylines to follow throughout the event. 

Andre De Grasse's health

The big question mark going into these world championships for Canada is the status of De Grasse.

The 27-year-old from Markham, Ont., tested positive for COVID-19 in June, forcing him to miss the national championships in Langley, B.C. A week later he told the Canadian Press he was still suffering symptoms while recovering, including shortness of breath. 

Despite a less-than-ideal lead-up to his third world championships, De Grasse will compete in the 100m and 4x100m relay, saying the 200m, in which he won gold in Tokyo, is a "game-time decision." He's proven time and again that when the stakes are at their highest, he performs his best. This time he'll need to overcome a stacked field of athletes and a short recovery time from COVID-19 if he wants to reach the podium once again. 

WATCH | Will De Grasse make podium at world championships:

Will Andre De Grasse make the podium at the World Athletics Championships?

5 months ago
Duration 3:11
Morgan Campbell lists the Canadians and other stories to watch for in Eugene, Oregon.

Mo Ahmed

The 31-year-old long-distance runner just quietly goes about his business, winning medals and breaking records along the way. 

Ahmed missed nationals last month because of an injury, but it's believed he'll be racing at full health by the time he competes in the 10,000m and 5,000m in Oregon. 

Last summer in Tokyo, Ahmed won silver in the 5,000m, Canada's first distance medal in Olympic track and field. This season, he's set national records in the indoor 5,000m and the 10,000m, both of which he previously held.

At the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Ahmed won bronze in the 5,000m, also Canada's first distance medal at the competition.

Nova Scotia's Sarah Mitton is aiming for a podium finish after throwing the third-best shot put in the world this year. (Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images/File)

Sarah Mitton's upward trend

The 5-foot-6 shot putter from Nova Scotia is brimming with confidence going into the world championships — and she should be. 

She's been consistently throwing more than 19 metres of late, and is coming off a national record throw of 20.33m at last month's nationals in Langley. It is the third best throw in the world this year. 

That said, a world championship is a completely different beast and Mitton knows it. She placed 28th at the Tokyo Olympics and while that was difficult to experience, Mitton and her coach, Richard Parkinson, have used it to learn and grow. Over the past few months the two have been working on her form and control and it's been paying off. Mitton posted a career-best Diamond League result at the end of June in Stockholm, placing second in shot put with a top throw of 19.90 metres.

Damian's decathlon dominance

Despite not attending nationals last month with what was described as a sore knee, Olympic champion decathlete Damian Warner says his body is feeling explosive and ready for the world championships.

He became just the fourth person in history to post a score of more than 9,000 points when he set an Olympic record last summer in Tokyo to claim gold. In March, he followed that up with a world indoor heptathlon gold medal.

Warner, however, has never won a world championship decathlon gold, finishing third twice and second once. The motivation for Warner now is not only winning gold in Eugene, but breaking Kevin Mayer's world-record score of 9,126 in the process.

WATCH | What motivates Damian Warner?

Damian Warner on what motivates him since record-breaking decathlon gold

5 months ago
Duration 8:42
Olympic decathlon gold medallist Damian Warner sat down with CBC’s Ian Hanomansing and shared why staying humble is so important to him, and what drives him after breaking the Olympic record for decathlon points.

Marco Arop breakthrough?

Buoyed by running the third-fastest 800m time in the world this season a couple of weeks ago in his hometown of Edmonton, middle-distance runner Marco Arop is feeling ready to reach the podium on the international stage. 

A year after failing to advance past the semifinals in the 800m at the Tokyo Games, Arop has been tweaking his strategy and is only getting better in each race he competes in. 

Arop has always loved being a front-runner to begin the race, blasting his 6-foot-4 athletic frame to the front of the pack. But after sputtering down the stretch in the scorching Tokyo heat last summer, Arop has reconsidered his approach and tactics and now says he's being a more intuitive racer. This new mindset seems to be serving Arop well this season, highlighted by a Diamond League win in Birmingham in late May. 

Hammertime for Camryn Rogers

A year after nearly becoming the first woman to win a medal for Canada at the Olympics in hammer throw, placing fifth, Camryn Rogers is once again attempting to make history by reaching the podium at worlds. 

Earlier this season, the 23-year-old from Richmond, B.C., shattered her own Canadian and the U.S. collegiate records with a toss of 77.67 metres — ninth-best in history for women. She followed that up with a national championship win in front of family and friends in Langley last month with a throw of 75.33 metres.

Rogers says she feels very comfortable throwing in the confines of Hayward Field, having competed there before during her NCAA career. 

Reviving relay magic

Canada men's 4x100m relay team is eyeing what has been an elusive gold. 

The foursome of De Grasse, Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake and Brendon Rodney have proven over the years they can reach the podium, most recently finishing second at the Tokyo Olympics after being upgraded to silver due to a doping infraction by the British team. 

All four believe they are more than capable of reaching the top of the podium. The final is scheduled for July 23, the second-last day of competition.

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

(CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.

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