Road To The Olympic Games

Track and Field

Canadians look primed to return to the podium at track and field worlds

Fifty-one Canadian athletes will attempt to carry the momentum of podium performances at the Diamond League Finals, Pan Am Games and national championships into the world track and field championships that began Friday in Doha, Qatar.

Team of 51 travels to Doha, led by Crew, Newman, Brown, DeBues-Stafford, Warner

Brittany Crew, who raised her Canadian shot put record to 19.28 metres on Sept. 1, is confident of reaching 19.50 this year. Perhaps the Pan Am silver medallist will achieve the feat Oct. 3 at the world track and field championships. (Jens Buettner/dpa via Associated Press)

Brittany Crew calls it the light-bulb moment.

Before the Pan Am Games in August, the Canadian shot putter was unsure what her coach Richard Parkinson was asking to be corrected with a technical issue in her throw.

"I didn't understand how to get my body in proper position but something clicked while he problem-solved and we came up with a cue of push and tuck," Crew says ahead of this week's world track and field championships. "Coming out of the back of the circle, I'm pushing off with the left leg, squeeze my knees and tuck my leg close to my body as I put my left foot down at the front of the circle.

"My upper body is able to stay back longer toward the back of the circle and I'm able to accelerate it into the throw a lot better."

The results have followed as Crew threw 19.07 metres to finish second in the Pan Am final in Peru before she extended her Canadian record for a fourth time this season to 19.28 on Sept. 1 at the Berlin World Challenge in Germany.

WATCH | Brittany Crew eclipses 19 metres at Pan Am Games:

The 25-year-old set a new Canadian record with her throw of 19.07m as she captured a silver medal in the women's shot put event at the Pan Am Games. 0:47

The 25-year-old, who has rebounded strongly this season after breaking her right foot last August, will be among 2,000-plus athletes vying for 192 medals across 49 finals during the 10-day world championships at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar.

CBCSports.ca is live streaming the entire event, with Friday's opening ceremony slated for 3:55 p.m ET.

'I think I can throw 19.50 this year'

Crew is part of a Canadian contingent of 51 that could have several athletes on the podium or within striking distance, according to head coach Glenroy Gilbert. Canadians have brought home 31 medals over 19 editions of the world championships since 1983, but were shut out two years ago in London.

Crew, though, did become the first Canadian female to throw in a world championship final at that event in London, placing sixth (18.21).

"With the confidence of throwing 19.28, I think I have a chance to get a medal," says Crew, who has never competed in Doha. "I truly think I can throw 19.50 this year and that would set me up for Tokyo [and the 2020 Olympics]."

WATCH | Head coach Glenroy Gilbert has high hopes for Canada:

Athletics Canada head coach Glenroy Gilbert praises the athletes for their performances this year. 2:54

Besides gold-medal favourite and 2019 Diamond League champion Gong Lijiao of China, who will attempt to become only the fourth woman to defend a world title in shot put, Crew feels the podium race between Chase Ealey and Maggie Ewen of the United States, Germany's Christina Schwanitz, Jamaica's Danniel Thomas-Dodd, Belarus' Aliona Dubitskaya and herself is wide open.

"It's going to be not only who's physically ready but mentally ready because a lot of people are tired. It's a long season," says Crew, who was born in Mississauga, Ont., and raised in nearby East York. "Everyone is within 10 to 30 centimetres of each other.

"I started the season slow and I'm coming into my own now. I'm excited to see what I can do."

The women's shot put final is scheduled for Oct. 3 at 3:35 p.m. ET.

WATCH | 8 Canadians to watch at track and field worlds:

Canada has a record amount of talent heading to the 2019 track and field world championships – here are a few to watch out for. 2:59

Confident Newman connects with poles

Meanwhile, Crew's Canadian teammate Alysha Newman is finding it "cool" striking fear into her pole vault opponents with her improved performance.

"I go to events now, people have seen what I've done, see what I'm capable of and they're scared," says the 25-year-old native of London, Ont. "That's how I felt looking at [reigning Olympic and world champion] Katerina [Stefanidi], Sandi [Morris] and [Anzhelika] Sidorova. I knew if they were on their game, they would win every time."

Nowadays, Newman is either on a similar level as the competition — she placed third behind Stefanidi and Sidorova at the Diamond League Final — or on top as she was on Aug. 24 in Paris, where she jumped 4.82 metres to raise her own Canadian record and defeat Stefanidi for her first Diamond League win.

WATCH | Canadian moments from past track and field worlds:

From Donovan Bailey, to Perdita Felicien, to Andre De Grasse, Canada has had flashes of glory at the track and field world championships. 3:03

"You can train as hard as you want and you can want it as much as anything," Newman says, "but if you can't get that rhythm, feel the confidence and connect with your poles, you're not going to jump high."

Newman began jumping on a new pole at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, where she won with a Games record clearance of 4.75 metres, before her season was halted a month later with a partial tear of the left patellar tendon, which attaches the bottom of the kneecap to the top of the shinbone.

She estimates taking 25 to 50 jumps on the pole, which is the same length but "a lot stiffer" than her previous pole, until understanding last month how it reacts during competition.

If I can finish with a 4.90 at worlds and enter next year jumping 4.80 and go for 4.95 and five metres, I'm going to jump five metres at the Olympics.— Canadian pole vaulter Alysha Newman

"I know that pole can make me jump five metres or 4.90," says Newman. "I have to bring a lot more power, speed and velocity when I'm hitting the box and the pole. I had to figure out at what angle to properly hit it.

Suddenly, her dream of one day surpassing Yelena Isinbayeva's 5.06-metre world record has never looked more attainable.

"My next series of poles," Newman says when asked how she plans to reach that height. "I jumped on them once at practice this season and they're going to be my world-record poles. If I can finish with a 4.90 at worlds and enter next year jumping 4.80 and go for 4.95 and five metres, I'm going to jump five metres at the Olympics [next summer]."

WATCH | Newman: 'I'm physically and mentally ready':

Canadian pole vault record holder Alysha Newman has beaten some of the world's best this season and is looking to end her season on a high note. 2:06

The women's pole vault final is Sunday at 1:40 p.m. ET.

Other Canadians to watch:

Moh Ahmed, men's 5,000/10,000 (Sept. 30, 2:20 p.m./Oct. 6, 1 p.m.): Ahmed, 28, has raced the 5,000 only twice this season but reached the podium in both, including a victory in 13:54.92 at the Canadian championships. Earlier this month, he paced his Bowerman Track Club teammates through 4,600m at sub-Olympic standard pace (13:13.50) at the Portland 5,000. At 2017 worlds, he was sixth in the 5,000 (13:35.43) and eighth in the 10,000 in a Canadian record 27:02.35.

Aaron Brown, men's 100m/200/4x100 relay (Sept. 28, 3:15 pm ET/Oct. 1, 3:40 p.m./Oct. 5, 3:15 p.m.): The 2019 Canadian champion hopes to erase the memory of his disqualification at worlds two years ago when Brown stepped on the inside line of the bend at London Stadium after running a season-best 20.08 seconds in his 200 heat. The 27-year-old went 20-flat to finish fourth at the recent Diamond League Final for a third straight year, his fastest time since a 19.95 SB on July 5.

WATCH | Aaron Brown defends Canadian 100m title in photo finish:

Aaron Brown edged Andre De Grasse in a photo finish to capture his second consecutive 100-metre title at the Canadian track and field championships. 0:21

Rachel Cliff, women's 5,000 (Oct. 5, 2:25 p.m.): The Canadian-record holder in the marathon takes the place of Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, who will focus on the 1,500. Cliff, 31, joins teammate Andrea Seccafien in the race after clocking a season-best 15:21.12 to meet the 15:22 world standard in July at Belgium. Cliff debuted at worlds two years ago, placing 20th in the 10,000.

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, women's 1,500 (Oct. 5, 1:55 p.m.): The Toronto native makes her debut at the outdoor senior world championships after breaking a combined five indoor/outdoor Canadian records this season. DeBues-Stafford set the 1,500 mark on July 20 at 4:00.26 before going 3:59.59 at the Diamond League Final in Zurich last month. The 24-year-old had also planned to race the 5,000 in Doha but the final is scheduled within 30 minutes of the 1,500.

WATCH | DeBues-Stafford runs historic 1,500 in Zurich:

Gabriela Debues-Stafford finished third and became the first-ever Canadian woman to break the 4-minute mark in the women's 1,500-metre race, with a time of 3:59.59. 6:25

Brandon McBride, men's 800 (Oct. 1, 3:10 p.m.): The Canadian-record holder, who has reached the podium in five of seven races this season, appears to be peaking at the right time, coming off a season-best 1:43.51 and third-place finish at the Diamond League Final. At 2017 worlds, McBride led midway through the final, faded and finished eighth in 1:47.09 before calling it a season later that month, citing mental and emotional exhaustion.

WATCH | Brandon McBride runs season-best 1:43.51 at Diamond League Final:

Brandon McBride finished third in the final 800-metres Diamond League race of the year in Zurich, Switzerland. 3:37

Men's 4x100 relay team (Oct. 5, 3:15 p.m.): Aaron Brown anchored Canada to victory in a meet record and season-best 38.26 seconds at Paris in August after he and Andre De Grasse, Gavin Smellie and Brendon Rodney failed to qualify for the final at the World Relays in May after a slow start and sloppy exchange. Two years ago at worlds, Mobolade Ajomale, Brown, Rodney and Smellie were sixth in 38.59.

WATCH | Canada edges France in meet-record time:

The Canadian squad of Gavin Smellie, Jerome Blake, Brendon Rodney and Aaron Brown win the 4x100 relay with a time 38.26. 3:02

Damian Warner, men's decathlon (Oct. 2-3): Warner will be chasing his first decathlon world title after winning bronze in 2013, silver in 2015 and placing fifth in 2017. The 29-year-old successfully defended his Pan Am title in August while battling a bone spur in his left ankle. Ranked No. 2 in the world, Warner will likely have to get an edge on defending world champion Kevin Mayer to stand atop the podium in Doha.

WATCH | Warner repeats as Pan Am decathlon champ:

Damian Warner won his second career Pan Am gold medal in the decathlon. 0:30

Mixed 4x400 relay team (Sept. 29, 3:35 p.m.): Canada's Austin Cole, Aiyanna-Brigitte Stiverne, Zoe Sherar and Philip Osei earned silver with a time of three minutes 18.15 seconds at the World Relays in May but could be in tough at worlds, no matter what foursome takes to the track (Sherar isn't in Doha). The Americans (3:16.43) won in May at Yokohama, with Poland owning the world-leading mark of 3:15.46, set in the heats in Japan.

CBC Sports has exclusive live coverage of the 2019 World Track & Field Championships from Sept. 27-Oct. 6. View the stream and broadcast schedule here. To add the complete event schedule to your calendar, click here.

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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