Sports·THE BUZZER

Storylines to know as track and field returns with indoor worlds

CBC Sports' daily newsletter looks ahead at a big season in track and field, beginning with the world indoor athletics championships this weekend.

Men's 100m up for grabs, Canadian records on the line and more

De Grasse and Jacobs are two of many contenders who could pull away from the rest of the field in the men's 100 metres this season. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

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Track and field season is getting off the blocks

The world indoor athletics championships may not be the biggest event on the calendar, but it does provide an entry point to what promises to be a fascinating season in track and field.

The meet begins on Friday in Serbia with sessions at 3:35 a.m. and 11:55 a.m. ET on CBCSports.ca, CBC Gem and the CBC Sports app. Watch all the action through Sunday here. Canada is sending a team of 12 women and six men — a list highlighted by Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner but missing fellow medallists Andre De Grasse and Moh Ahmed.

Beyond this weekend, the next key event comes when season-long Diamond League action begins in May. The crown jewel of the season arrives in July with the more coveted outdoor world championships, set to take place for the first time ever at the home of Nike in Eugene, Oregon. Because of pandemic-induced schedule changes, it's also the start of back-to-back years featuring world championships for the first time ever.

Here are some storylines you should know heading into the season:

The men's 100 metres remains a mystery. This was the case before the Tokyo Olympics, where Italian longshot Lamont Marcell Jacobs took the gold medal, immediately faced doping questions and didn't race again until February. Now, things are even more muddled. American Christian Coleman was the pre-Olympic favourite before missing the Games due to a doping-related suspension, but he's back now and set to go head-to-head with Jacobs in the 60m at indoor worlds, where the 100m won't be contested. There's also De Grasse, who won 100m bronze at each of the last two Olympics. The Scarborough, Ont., native seemed to find his stride in the distance after Tokyo, posting a pair of wind-aided times that would have been Canadian records en route to completing the 100-200 double at Diamond League Finals. American rising star Trayvon Bromell, who flamed out in Japan, is also a name to watch. In the women's 100m, Sha'Carri Richardson is well past her brief marijuana ban and looking to shake up the Jamaican trio of Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson that shared the Olympic podium. Of that group, only Jackson is racing the 60m at indoor worlds.

The Olympic decathlon record-holder is looking for another first. After claiming his first Olympic gold medal with a record-breaking performance in Tokyo, Canada's Warner aims for his first indoor heptathlon title in Serbia. The seven-event heptathlon features slight variations on some of the 10 decathlon events, but Warner, who took silver in 2018, remains a leading contender for gold. The 32-year-old took a few months off after the Olympics and told CBC Sports his initial return felt "terrible," before he regrouped for a solid performance at a meet in London, Ont., a couple weeks ago. But Warner, like most athletes, is likely aiming to peak in time for Oregon, where he could cement his status as one of the greatest decathletes ever with another gold medal. Read more about Warner's outlook in this piece by CBC Sports' Doug Harrison.

Canadian records are on the line. De Grasse seemed poised to break Donovan Bailey and Bruny Surin's longstanding shared 100m record of 9.84 seconds by the end of last season. Two other runners have already begun rewriting the history books in 2022. Gabriela DeBues-Stafford shattered both the 3,000m and 5,000m records within a week in February, the latter also being fast enough to topple the North American mark. The 26-year-old has never reached the podium at a major meet, but her fast start may portend good things to come. She'll run the 3,000m in Serbia. Meanwhile, Ahmed took down his own 10,000m mark by more than 25 seconds at a meet earlier in March. Ahmed, 31, became Canada's first-ever podium finisher in the 5,000m after taking silver in Tokyo, and could be a threat in both distances in Oregon.

Russian and Belarusian athletes are out of the picture. World Athletics, the sport's governing body, has been harder on Russia than most in the years since the country's doping scandal was uncovered. The Russian Federation has been banned since 2015, with athletes requiring individual vetting in order to compete — a harsher crackdown than the Olympics, which essentially allowed the Russian name and colours to remain, while taking a more innocent-until-proven-guilty approach with specific athletes. In light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine last month, all Russians and Belarusians were excluded from indoor worlds. World Athletics head Sebastian Coe called earlier this week for all sports federations to remain firm in similar bans. Read more about Coe's stance on Russia here.

For more on the world indoor championships, watch this video preview from CBC Sports' Jacqueline Doorey and Morgan Campbell.

Gabriela Debues-Stafford finished fifth in the women's 1,500 at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. (Andrew Boyers/Reuters)

Quickly...

The Olympics don't always reward the best athlete in each sport. The allure of the Games — competitors thrust onto the biggest stage once every four years — is what provides much of the excitement. But for the athletes themselves, it's ultimately one (particularly elevated) event in a long season, and anything can happen. American ski star Mikaela Shiffrin's massive spotlight in Beijing only grew when she openly struggled with the enormous pressure. Uncharacteristically, she failed to finish two of her six races while missing the podium in all of them. Today, she rebounded to clinch her fourth overall World Cup title, showing the Olympics for the outlier they can be. Another prohibitive gold-medal favourite, Canada's Mikaël Kingsbury, settled for silver in China. But the Quebec native is still a good bet to clinch the 10th and 11th Crystal Globes of his career in moguls and dual moguls at the World Cup Finals this weekend in France. Read more about Kingsbury's outlook here, and watch the moguls competition on Friday at 1 p.m. ET here.

Two Canadian NHL teams got an early jump on the trade deadline. Trades can be made until Monday at 3 p.m. ET, but Calgary and Montreal have both begun dealing already. The red-hot Flames, who suddenly own a healthy lead atop the Pacific division, added middle-six forward Calle Jarnkrok from the Kraken in exchange for three draft picks. It's their second win-now move of the season, as their trade for Tyler Toffoli from the Habs is already paying dividends with the forward recording 14 points in his first 15 games as a Flame. The Canadiens, meanwhile, dealt defenceman Ben Chiarot to Florida for a first-rounder, fourth-rounder and prospect. Even if it's not surprising, it remains jarring to see last season's Stanley Cup finalists turn so quickly into sellers. Read more about the Chiarot trade here.

WNBA star Brittney Griner's detention in Russia was reportedly extended. A frightening situation just got a little moreso for the Phoenix Mercury standout, who was originally arrested for possessing vape cartridges and cannabis oil. Griner, a two-time Olympic champion with the U.S., will now reportedly be held by Russian authorities until at least May 19 — nearly two weeks beyond the start of the WNBA season. The 32-year-old has played in Russia for the last seven off-seasons, where she's earned more than quadruple her WNBA salary. Read the latest on Griner's arrest here.

And finally...

March Madness fittingly began with some luck for the Irish. Notre Dame outlasted Rutgers in double-OT of the final play-in game last night, with the clock expiring just after the calendar flipped to March 17 and St. Patrick's Day. Meanwhile, the tournament began in earnest today, with No. 11 Michigan upsetting No. 6 Colorado State to tip things off. Follow the latest results and noteworthy Canadian performances here.

You're up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.

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