Road To The Olympic Games

Track and Field·Preview

Aaron Brown, Sage Watson lead strong Canadian squads into IAAF World Relays

Clinching a world championship berth will be on the minds of several Canadian sprinters at the IAAF World Relays this weekend in Yokohama, Japan. Canada is sending nine men and 13 women to the two-day event.

22-member team will try to secure multiple spots for track and field worlds in September

Canada's Aaron Brown and his men's relay teammates will attempt to carry their success at the recent Florida Relays into the IAAF World Relays this weekend in Yokohama, Japan. (Matthew Lewis/Getty Images for IAAF/File)

Clinching a world championship berth will be on the minds of several Canadian sprinters at the IAAF World Relays this weekend in Yokohama, Japan.

Reigning national 100- and 200-metre champion Aaron Brown will be focused on the 4x100 with teammates Andre De Grasse, Brendon Rodney and Gavin Smellie at the May 11-12 event.

They swept the 100 and 200 showdowns at the Florida Relays earlier this month, anchored by De Grasse and Brown, respectively.

"We felt good as a group but there are always things we can improve on," says Brown, who set a personal-best time of 19.98 at the Bislett Games last June in Oslo, Norway, but failed to reach the podium at the Diamond League final in August.

The Toronto native adds the group needs to continue working on accelerating through the zone to make our passes deeper in the exchange zone."

Chance to experience different culture

"We are looking to qualify for the world championship by making the final in the 4x100 [in Japan] first and foremost," Brown says. "Making the final and winning a medal [at worlds in September] in Doha [Qatar] would mean a lot for the [Canadian] program. We've seen what positive momentum a medal at the world championships can bring."

Canada's men won gold in the 4x200 at worlds two years ago in a time of one minute 19.42 seconds.

Athletics Canada named 22 athletes, including 13 females, to its team for Japan, site of next year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Canadian women will compete in the 4x100, 4x400 and mixed relay.

Sage Watson of Medicine Hat, Alta., headlines the Canadian women's 4x400-metre team for the the IAAF World Relays this weekend in Yokohama, Japan. (David Ramos/Getty Images/File)

Sage Watson, who primarily races the 400 hurdles, will lead the relay squad that has been on the rise in recent years with depth and talent at each leg.

The most important thing this year is to be competitive and fast so we are ready in 2020 to bring home an Olympic medal.— Canadian runner Sage Watson

The native of Medicine Hat, Alta., secured a spot in hurdles at the Diamond League final last summer after finishing fourth in the overall standings with 22 points over five events.

She echoed Brown's comments about reaching the podium to qualify for worlds.

"The most important thing this year is to be competitive and fast, so we are ready in 2020 to bring home an Olympic medal," says the 24-year-old.

For the first time, the world relays will feature the same number of men's, women's and mixed events. Shuttle hurdles, in which each of four hurdlers on a team run the opposite direction from the preceding runner, and a 2x2x400 have been added to the two-day meet.

The Canadian athletes will be competing for a share of the $1.19 million US in prize money and the Golden Baton, awarded to the team that collects the most points.

Canada roster

Women's 4x100 metres: Khamica Bingham, Leya Buchanan, Crystal Emmanuel, Shaina Harrison, Farah Jacques, Whitney Rowe.

Men's 4x100: Jerome Blake, Aaron Brown, Andre De Grasse, Brendon Rodney, Gavin Smellie.

Women's 4x400: Alicia Brown, Travia Jones, Madeline Price, Zoe Sherar, Maya Stephens, Aiyanna Stiverne, Sage Watson.

Men's 4x400: Austin Cole, Daniel Harper, Philip Osei.

About the Author

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 Faceoff.com. Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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