The last time most Canadians saw Andre De Grasse on the track, he was putting the finishing touches on a second consecutive three-medal performance at the Olympics.
It all started in Tokyo with a personal best 9.89 seconds for bronze in the 100 meters as De Grasse matched his effort at the Summer Games five years earlier in Rio and became the first Canadian to win multiple medals. Olympics in this event.
It ended with the Markham, Ont., sprinter winning bronze in the 100m relay with Aaron Brown, Brendon Rodney and Jerome Blake to become Canada’s most decorated male Olympian. They recently saw the medal move to silver after Great Britain, who finished 1-100ths behind Italy, were disqualified following CJ Ujah’s doping violation.
Meanwhile, De Grasse won the first gold of his Olympic career and the first by a Canadian in the 200m since 1928, setting a national record of 19.62. Blake was blown away by how fast De Grasse could run after just four 200s earlier in 2021.
“He is like [retired sprinter] Usain Bolt or [NBA star] James [James]. They never worry about the regular season,” said Blake, who will face world No. 2 De Grasse and Brown in the 200 in Friday’s Diamond League season opener in Doha, Qatar, between the workouts in Florida.” They’re [all] championship players and that’s where they come to life.
“That’s where you want to thrive and give your best, in a championship setting. That’s [about] how you perform when it matters most.”
Also in Friday’s field are 2020 Olympic bronze medalist and reigning world champion Noah Lyles and fellow American Fred Kerley, who ran 19.80 on April 16 at the USATF Golden Games, second only this season behind teammate Erriyon Knighton (19.49).
While some of his teammates and competitors ran indoors earlier this year, including the world championships in March, De Grasse stayed close to his home in Jacksonville, Florida, running a 100, a 200 and three relay.
“Seeing your compatriot so well forces you to improve your game and learn from him. I want the three fastest races of my life to be at [outdoor world championships in July]”said Blake, who set records in the 100 (10 dishes) and 200 (20.04) earlier this spring. “It’s going to be a fun time when we can go head-to-head this year.”
Men’s 100m stacked at pre-classic
De Grasse will continue his Diamond League season May 21 in Birmingham, England, where he will race the 100m to defend his title at the May 28 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, site of that year’s world championships. summer. It will be Tokyo’s revenge against reigning Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs and silver medalist Kerley, who clocked 9.92 last weekend at a Continental Tour meet in Nairobi.
WATCH | De Grasse turns in 9.74 seconds with the wind during the 2021 pre-classic:
The packed field will also feature 2020 Olympic finalist Ronnie Baker and his American teammates Christian Coleman, Kenny Bednarek and Lyles. Coleman, the former world number one, won the men’s 60m indoor at the Millrose Games on January 29 after serving an 18-month ban for violating anti-doping whereabouts rules.
Athletes will compete for points on nine more stages crossing four continents with the aim of reaching the Diamond League final on September 7-8 in Zurich, where they will have the chance to be crowned champions and win 30 US$000 in prizes.
Six Diamond League champions will be determined at a street event, with another 26 disciplines taking place the next day at Letzigrund Stadium in Switzerland.
Polish competition added to the calendar
The Kamila Skolimowska memorial reunion in Chorzow, Poland on August 6 is the newest stop on the circuit, replacing the Shanghai and Shenzhen events, which were canceled recently due to strict travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in China.
Two meetings in China were also canceled last year for similar reasons.
The Canada Trophy drought
As dominant as André De Grasse has been in the Olympics and other major championships, the sprinter is still in the hunt for his first Diamond League trophy.
On Sept. 16, 2011, six-foot-four, 310-pound shot putter Dylan Armstrong of Kamloops, British Columbia, won US$40,000 and a four-carat diamond-encrusted trophy in Brussels, the most recent Canadian to win a Diamond League title.
The year before, Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Whitby, Ont., who was once world number one hurdler, became the first Canadian Diamond League champion when the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist stopped the clock in 12.54 seconds in the women’s 100 meters at the Memorial. Van Damme competition in Belgium the day after his 28th birthday.
Last September, De Grasse placed second in the 100m and 200m at the Diamond League final in Zurich. In 2019, he posted a season-best 19.87 seconds in the 200m to win bronze in the Diamond League final. His teammate Aaron Brown finished fourth, as in 2017, 2018 and 2021.
WATCH | De Grasse nearly knocked down Bednarek in the 200m Diamond League final:
DeBues-Stafford ‘connected’ in British Columbia
Middle-distance runner Gabriela DeBues-Stafford was in record form to start 2022 but now has to adjust to a new coach and training environment. She left famed trainer Jerry Schumacher and the Bowerman Track Club in Portland, Oregon after 18 months to work with Trent and Hilary Stellingwerff in Victoria.
DeBues-Stafford, who placed fifth in the women’s Olympic 1500m in Tokyo, said the move three months before the world championships was necessary “for the sake of my athletic performance and my mental health”.
DeBues-Stafford, 26, who holds seven Canadian records between indoor and outdoor track, was motivated to leave Bowerman to minimize any negative stress following her former Portland sparring partner Shelby Houlihan’s doping ban and the continued presence of the latter around the team became too much to handle.
“The right stress from competition and putting in some serious practice will help you perform at the highest level,” DeBues-Stafford said in a recent interview with CBC Sports’ Brenda Irving. “It’s a good environment [in B.C.] to make sure I’m connected and not distracted by noise around training.”
Canadian Record Hunt
Marco Arop made his Diamond League final debut in 2021, finishing fourth in the men’s 800 meters a month after missing the final on his Olympic debut. Ranked third in the world, the 23-year-old will look to redeem himself at his second world championships after placing seventh in the 2019 final.
The Edmonton native, who won two Diamond League races after the Olympics, will also be looking to break Brandon McBride’s Canadian record after missing 6 hundredths of a second in 1:43.26 at Diamond League Monaco last July. Doha will make his outdoor season debut in the 800m after clocking 46.10 PB in a 400m race in Starkville, Mississippi, where he trains.
WATCH | Arop narrowly misses the Canadian record in Stockholm:
6.20 meters and counting for Duplantis
Internationally, Sweden’s Armand “Mondo” Duplantis continues to raise the bar, literally, in the men’s pole vault. Two weeks after breaking a new world indoor height record of 6.19 meters in March, he hit 6.20 to win gold at the world indoor championships in Belgrade, Serbia.
This mark is also the world’s outdoor mark, as world athletics regulations state that world records can be set in a “roofed or unroofed” facility.
The reigning Olympic champion won his first Diamond League trophy last season and will be aiming for a second career Diamond League win in Doha after winning it in September 2020 with a 5.82 clearance.
Crouser’s dominance in the shot put
It will be interesting to see what American Ryan Crouser can do for a recall after his 2021 shot put season considered one of the greatest in history.
It all started with an American and world record of 22.82 meters, surpassing Randy Barnes’ indoor mark of 22.66 from 1989. Barnes’ 1990 outdoor world record of 23.12 also dropped last year, courtesy of Crouser (23.37), during the Olympic trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
A month later, the six-foot-seven, 320-pound Crouser threw an Olympic record 22.83 to repeat as champion and won his first Diamond League trophy in five attempts.
Crouser will return to Eugene later this month at the Prefontaine Classic to renew his rivalry with fellow American Joe Kovacs and New Zealand’s Tom Walsh.
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