Track and Field

Peter Eriksson: Canada's track and field team 'kicked ass'

With a national record of eight medals — including golds from Derek Drouin in high jump and Shawn Barber in pole vault — Canada's track and field team leaves the Beijing world championships with plenty of swagger a year ahead of the Rio Olympics.

Canadian athletes leave Beijing worlds with 8 medals

Peter Eriksson with Scott Russell on developing Canada's talent 2:36

With a national record of eight medals — including golds from Derek Drouin in high jump and Shawn Barber in pole vault — Canada's track and field team leaves the Beijing world championships with plenty of swagger, a year ahead of the Rio Olympics.

Drouin's high jump gold medal capped an impressive meet that featured a number of Canadian firsts at a world championship:

  • 1st gold medal in men's high jump (Drouin)
  • 1st gold medal in men's pole vault (Barber)
  • 1st medal in women's 800 metre (Melissa Bishop, silver)

"We came here to kick ass," said Athletics Canada head coach Peter Eriksson. "We kicked ass."

Canada's previous best performance was five medals, two years ago in Moscow. The last time Canada won more medals in either a world championships or Olympics was at the 1932 Games, where the Canadians captured nine.

Confidence was in abundance for the young Canadian team and it seemed to grow as the week went on. By the time Sunday's high jump final came around, Drouin had been repeating his zen-like mantra for days: "You can win this," he kept repeating to himself.

Eyes on Rio

Canada now heads into the Olympic year with numerous medal threats. The team had three silvers in Beijing from Damian Warner in the decathlon, Brianne Theisen-Eaton in the heptathlon, and Bishop in the 800m. Canada earned three bronze from Andre De Grasse in the 100m, the men's 4x100m relay, and Ben Thorne in the men's 20-kilometre race walk.

Canada could have added a ninth medal had De Grasse opted to compete in the 200m — an event he's ranked higher in.

There were also four Canadian records: 

  • Ben Thorne, 20 km race walk (1:19:57)
  • Melissa Bishop, 800m (1:57.52 in semifinal)
  • Women's 4x100m (42.60 in semifinal)
  • Damian Warner, decathlon (8,695 points)

Canadians were advancing to semis and finals at a much better rate, too. Eriksson said that normally about 31 per cent of the team advances out of the preliminary round. This week saw 61 per cent move on.

What was obvious throughout the meet was a sense of quiet confidence, from star sprinter De Grasse to Warner to Bishop, to Canada's race walk squad, that pervaded this team. Every medallist talked about a belief in the idea of, "Why not me?"

And during the wait for Drouin in the media mixed zone Sunday night, there were hugs and handshakes and the cracking open of celebratory beers between Canada's staff.

"That was one of the messages in the team meeting: stop being nice polite Canadians, that we're here to kick some ass," Eriksson said. "And they really kicked ass, and I think everybody really got the message."

With files from The Canadian Press

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