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Track and Field·Preview

Canada has 'highly competitive' team at indoor track and field worlds

Canada has sent 15 athletes to the world indoor track and field championships, which begin Thursday in Birmingham, United Kingdom (, 1:45 p.m. ET). Now-retired Brianne Theisen-Eaton won Canada's lone indoor world medal two years ago in the pentathlon.

15-member squad features 9 athletes with world championship or Olympic final experience

Athletics Canada head coach Glenroy Gilbert says he'll be guiding a small but "highly competitive" team at the world indoor track and field championships this week in Birmingham, United Kingdom. Fifteen Canadians will attempt to win a medal, including, from left: Damian Warner in heptathlon, Shawn Barber in pole vault and sprinter Crystal Emmanuel in the 60 metres.

Crystal Emmanuel arrived at her second world indoor track and field championships in good health, though an inconsistent training schedule due to injury has tempered the sprinter's expectations.

Still, the Canadian-record holder in the outdoor 200 metres is confident she can threaten her indoor personal best of 7.23 seconds in the 60m event on Friday in Birmingham, United Kingdom. The women's heats are scheduled for 5:35 a.m. ET, followed by the semifinals at 1:50 p.m. and final at 4:38 p.m.

"With a good executed race, I can run faster than I've ever ran," Emmanuel, who stopped the clock in 7.28 at the Grand Prix d'Athletisme in Montreal on Feb. 10, said in an email to CBC Sports earlier this week. "The time should be faster than 7.28, for sure." She also ran 7.30 earlier this month at an Athletics Ontario indoor series meet in Toronto (see Lane 4 in video below).

"Technically, my plan is to get a good start, transition and finish strong. We [Emmanuel and coach Charles Allen] have been working hard on my starts."

The four-day event will be streamed live at, starting Thursday at 1:45 p.m. ET. Television coverage begins Saturday at 5 p.m. and concludes Sunday at 4 p.m. local time.

At the end of last year's outdoor season, during which the 26-year-old Emmanuel shattered the 34-year-old national 200 record, repeated as Canadian champion in the 100 and 200 and placed seventh at worlds, she suffered a right hamstring injury that caused an imbalance with the right glutes, quadriceps muscles and hip.

Last month, tightness in her right quad also forced Emmanuel to withdraw from the 60 at the 53rd Knights of Columbus Indoor Games in Saskatoon after she clocked 6.30 to win the 50.

"My medical team has worked hard to clear things up over the last three months," she said. "I'm the healthiest I've been this season heading into this championship."

Emmanuel is among 15 Canadians (four men, 11 women) competing in Birmingham. Two years ago, the now-retired Brianne Theisen-Eaton was the team's lone medallist at the worlds in Portland, Ore., winning gold in the pentathlon.

Many medal contenders for Canada: coach

Several elite Canadian athletes missed that meet to prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics, including sprinter Andre De Grasse, long jumper Derek Drouin and 800-metre specialist Melissa Bishop, as the United States ruled the competition with 23 podium performances.

"This is a small but highly competitive team [in Birmingham]," Athletics Canada head coach Glenroy Gilbert said in a statement. "The standards to make the team were rigorous and we feel those competing are ready to reach finals and compete for medals."

Among the other notable Canadian athletes:

Shawn Barber, pole vault: Despite clearing a season-best 5.81 metres on the weekend at the All-Star Perche in Clermont-Ferrand, France, Barber faces an uphill battle in Birmingham. Nine men with SBs of 5.88 or better will be competing, including defending indoor champion and Barber's longtime rival Renaud Lavillenie of France, who is chasing a third indoor title.

In August, Barber failed to defend his world outdoor title, clearing 5.65 on his third and final try. The Toronto resident's personal best indoors is 6.00, achieved in 2016 when a 21-year-old Barber broke his own Canadian record at the Pole Vault Summit in Reno, Nev.

Brittany Crew, shot put: The 23-year-old arrived in Birmingham looking to break her Canadian record for a second time this season. Crew threw a personal-best 18.20 metres for a silver medal at the Grand Prix d'Athletisme in Montreal on Feb. 10. With an outdoor PB of 18.58, the native of Mississauga, Ont., is preparing to compete at the Commonwealth Games in April at Australia and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Brittany Crew threw a personal-best 18.20 metres for a silver medal at the Grand Prix d’Athletisme in Montreal on Feb. 10. (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images/File)

Alysha Newman, pole vault: Newman will enter Saturday's women's pole vault final after improving her national indoor mark to 4.66 metres at the Tyson Invitational on Feb. 10 in Fayetteville, N.C. The 23-year-old shattered the previous Canadian mark of 4.60 by Saskatoon's Kelsie Hendry when she cleared 4.65 in January 2017 at the Fred Foot Track and Field Memorial meet in Toronto. Newman of London, Ont., capped a 2017 outdoor campaign matching her Canadian record of 4.75 in a season that saw her clear 4.65 nine times and place seventh at her worlds debut.

Gabriela Stafford, 1,500m: A 2016 Olympian, the 22-year-old University of Toronto student will attempt to improve on a 12th-place finish at the 2016 indoor worlds in Portland, Ore., where Stafford set a personal best time of four minutes 11.46 seconds. Last summer, the psychology major reached the 1,500 semifinals at the world championships to place 21st overall. Stafford's season best of 4:15.70 was recorded on Feb. 3 at the prestigious Millrose Games in New York City.

Canada's Gabriela Stafford will attempt to improve on a 12th-place finish in the women's 1,500 metres at the 2016 indoor worlds in Portland, Ore., where Stafford set a personal best time of four minutes 11.46 seconds. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via Associated Press/File)

The women's 1,500 features another Canadian, Kate Van Buskirk, who has broken the Canadian indoor mile record (4:26.92) and become the second-fastest Canadian 3,000 runner of all-time over the past month. The 30-year-old Van Buskirk, who hails from Brampton, Ont., is making her first national team appearance in more than three years after a bronze medal performance at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Shortly thereafter, a pulled hamstring and several other injuries plagued Van Buskirk until 2017.

Damian Warner, heptathlon: The 2016 Olympic bronze medallist in the decathlon will compete in heptathlon in Birmingham. The indoor event features the 60-metre sprint, long jump, shot put and high jump on Friday, followed by 60m hurdles, pole vault and the 1,000 on Saturday. Warner, 28, has season bests of 7.53m and 7.73 seconds in long jump and 60 hurdles, respectively. Last September, he won gold at the season-ending Decastar decathlon in France.

At outdoor worlds in August, Warner battled a stomach to a fifth-place finish in decathlon. In Birmingham, the London, Ont., native is expected to challenge Ashton Eaton's world indoor heptathlon record of 6,645 points and threaten Michael Smith's 25-year-old Canadian mark of 6,279. Warner scored a personal-best 6,129 at the 2014 worlds in Poland.

Canada's indoor worlds roster

  • Kelsey Balkwill (Essex, Ont.) – 400 metres
  • Shawn Barber (Toronto) – Pole vault
  • Jonathan Cabral (Peribonka, Que.) – 60m hurdles
  • Brittany Crew (Mississauga, Ont.) – Shot put
  • Crystal Emmanuel (Toronto) – 60m​
  • Travia Jones (Regina) – 400m
  • Genevieve Lalonde (Moncton) – 3,000m
  • Tim Nedow (Brockville, Ont.) – Shot put
  • Christabel Nettey (Surrey, B.C.) – Long jump
  • Alysha Newman (London, Ont.) – Pole vault
  • Gabriela Stafford (Toronto) – 1,500m
  • Kate Van Buskirk (Brampton, Ont.) – 1,500m
  • Damian Warner (London, Ont.) – Heptathlon
  • Angela Whyte (Edmonton) – 60m hurdles
  • Jenna Westaway (Calgary) – 800m

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 Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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