Preview: Canadian middle and long-distance athletes at London World Championships

July 21, 2017 0

© Copyright – 2017 – Athletics Illustrated

Andre De Grasse at 201 Harry Jerome Track Classic. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

Canada’s growing roster of talented track and field athletes continue to be medal threats at global championships including, no doubt, this summer’s IAAF London World Track and Field Championships.

As the saying goes, anything can and typically does happen at major international sporting events; for some, expectations will fall hard, while for others dreams may come true.

The expected shoe-ins or near shoe-ins for a podium finish include the obvious choices like Rio Olympic medallist Andre De Grasse in the sprints, Shawn Barber in the pole vault as well as Mike Mason and Derek Drouin in the high jump, Evan Dunfee in the 50K racewalk, Ben Thorne in the 20K racewalk and Melissa Bishop in the 800-metre distance event. The current top-10 list is below.

Middle and long-distance track and road events are previewed below:

800-metre
Qualification standard: men – 1:45.90 – women – 2:01.00

Melissa Bishop at 2016 Victoria Track Classic. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

Bishop finished fourth during the Rio Olympic final. The first three finishers are suspected of being intersex or naturally producing high levels of testosterone. It was a controversial race. If Bishop is to medal in London, she will simply need to run faster than ever before. She already holds the national record at 1:57.02 – set in that Rio final. She did earn a silver medal during the 2015 Beijing world championships.

Bishop is the only female Canadian in the event. She qualified with a 1:59.52 in May and a win at the Canadian Track and Field Championships (nationals).

While the IAAF and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) deliberate over whether women that are intersex can race women who are not, Bishop continues to maintain a classy attitude.

Brandon McBride has the potential to take the national record in the 800m distance. He has been close before and is young at 23-years-of-age. He may take that record this summer, which stands at 1:43.68 and is held by Kamloops native Gary Reed. McBride has run as fast as 1:43.95.

If the tactics work in his favour, he has every chance to medal. He told Athletics Illustrated, “I am as fit as I have ever been.” He, like Bishop, is the only Canadian competing in the distance.

The 800m event is one in particular where an athlete can be good enough to win on any given night, but also, not make the final in a global championships – it is the most competitive event in athletics.

1500-metre
Qualification standard: men – 3:36.00 – women – 4:07.50

Gabriella Stafford. Photo submitted.

Sheila Reid is on the list for the 1500m distance, her specialty. Reid is one of Canada’s most talented middle-distance runners and is a two-time NCAA champion. Since graduating from Villanova University, she has had a rough go with injuries. She may be back.

Reid owns a best of 4:02.96. She ran the third-fastest Canadian time during the qualification window of 4:07.07. Above her are veteran Nicole Sifuentes and the young, Gabriella Stafford. The two ran 4:06.24 and 404.87 in the lead-up, respectively.

At nationals the three, confident in their abilities, finished 1-2-3 in both the preliminaries and the finals, but only fast enough to place. Stafford won both races. She has a best of 4:04.87 and finished ninth during the heats in Rio. Sifuentes owns a best of 4:03.97. She earned a bronze in the 2014 Sopot, Russia indoor world championships.

No men qualified even though several have the ability to do so including Charles Philibert-Thiboutot and Nathan Brannen.

Philibert-Thiboutot has run as fast as 3:34.23 and competed in the Rio games. Veteran Brannen has a best that is .01 of a second faster than CPT. He is a three-time Olympian having competed in Beijing, London and Rio.

3,000m Steeplechase
Qualification standard: men – 8:32.00 – women – 9:42.00

Genevieve Lalonde

Matt Hughes, Canada’s all-time fastest steepler, is the only Canadian to qualify for the event with his 8:30.91 performance at nationals. His personal best is an impressive 8:11.64. He finished sixth and eighth in the Moscow and Beijing world championships and 10th in the Rio Olympic Games.

The top three in Rio went 8:21.40, 8:21.53 and 8:21.96. The winning time two years earlier in Beijing was just 8:11.28. If Hughes finds himself in the right race, he could have a chance to threaten for a medal position.

Genevieve Lalonde is the only Canadian to qualify amongst the women. She set a new Canadian record in Rio at 9:30.24. The winning time was 9:17.55, while the winning time in Beijing was 9:19.11.

5,000m
Qualification standard: men – 13:22.60 – women – 15:22.00

Andrea Seccafien and Jessica O’Connell qualified with times of 15:20.77 and 15:16.79, and then went 1-2 at nationals. Both competed in the Rio Olympics, but didn’t make the final.

Jessica O’Connell at Vic City Invite. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

O’Connell owns a best of 15:06.44, while Seccafien has run as fast as 15:17.81. The national record is 14:54.98, held by Courtney Babcock from 2003. The winning time in Rio was 14:29.77, while in the Beijing worlds the gold medallist crossed the line in the time of 14:26.83. O’Connell and Seccafien will likely need to run better than the national record to be in the hunt for the final race.

“My main objective at nationals was to place in the top-two, which would secure my spot on the world’s team. Knowing that both Andrea and Sasha are very strong and speedy runners, I tried to take the safest risks I could to put myself in a top-two position,” said O’Connell.”

Mohammed Ahmed owns the national record in the 5,000m distance at 13:01.74. He will be racing both the 5,000m and 10,000m events in London. He is currently the most likely Canadian to break the 13-minute benchmark in the 5,000m. Time will tell. For London, he will have to deal with the typical tactics of championship racing. Ahmed is a serious medal threat. He finished fourth in Rio.

Justyn Knight is a talented athlete, still in the midst of his NCAA career at Syracuse University, he will also toe-the-line in the 5,000m. Knight finished second during the national championships that took place in Ottawa two weeks ago. London will be a good experience for the emerging talent. Knight owns a best of 13:17.51.

10,000m
Qualification standard: men – 27:45.00 – women – 32:15.00

Natasha Wodak at 2017 Vancouver Sun Run. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

Natasha Wodak, Rachel Cliff and Lanni Marchant will all be competing in the 10,000m event. Wodak owns the national record of 31:41.59; Marchant has run the second fastest time of 31:46.94 and owns the marathon record of 2:28.00. Both competed in Rio. Cliff nearly made the Rio Olympic team.

Cliff, on social media wrote, “I’m feeling fit, focused and so excited to have the opportunity to compete on the world stage. I’d run out of space if I tried to thank everyone who helped get me here”

The Rio Olympic gold medallist Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia has run out of-this-world performances, including a spectacular near-solo world record run in Rio of 29:17.45. By that standard, she, in theory, could lap the Canadians exactly twice – if they match Wodak’s record in the process.

Ahmed qualified for the 10,000m event with a 27:30.00 in May at the Payton Jordan Invitational. His 10,000m performances haven’t quite matched his 5,000m, however, there are very few chances to get into a quality 10,000m race – perhaps the best of Ahmed has not been seen in the longer event.

Marathon
Qualification standard: men – 2:19:00 – women – 2:45:00

Rachel Hannah, Tara Korir and Dayna Pidhoresky will be running the marathon event. Eight Canadian women ran fast enough to qualify for the games by bettering the world standard of 2:45:00.

Dayna Pidhoresky

Veteran and master Krista Duchene, who owns the second-fastest Canadian marathon time of 2:28:32 ran a 2:34.00 in advance, but will not be racing. Marchant is running only the 10,000m; she ran the second-fastest time leading up with a 2:33.08 in Rio.

Dayna Pidhoresky has had arguably her best year in 2017. She won the Around the Bay 30K in Hamilton, becoming the only Canadian-born runner to win the event three times. She finished in 1:47.27. She also set a new marathon personal best in Ottawa in May with her 2:36:08, she was the first Canadian.

Hannah ran the fastest during the qualification window of 2:32:09.

The Rio marathon was won in the time of 2:24:04 and 2:27:39 in Beijing. A new Canadian record will need to be set to entertain a podium finish.

Although four men qualified in the marathon, only Eric Gillis and Thomas Toth will be competing. Reid Coolsaet, who had the fastest qualification time with his 2:10:55, will not be running. He has been the most consistent marathon runner in Canadian history.

Rob Watson is retired, but he did qualify with a 2:18:45. He has run 2:13 twice in his career.

Toth is in with a 2:18:58.

Gillis owns a best of 2:11:21.

Rio was won in 2:08:44, Beijing 2:12:27.

50K and 20K – Racewalk
Qualification standard: 50K  – 4:06:00 – 20K – 1:24:00

Evan Dunfee at 2017 Vancovuer Sun Run. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

Evan Dunfee finished heartbreakingly close to a medal during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games 50K. He was taken off his rhythm by a little contact that took place during the final section of the race between himself and the bronze medallist. With the dominant Russians still out of competition due to systematic doping, London may bear fruit for Dunfee, who continues to be one of the top distance walkers in the world. Mathieu Bilodeau is also in the 50K.  He will be seeking retribution for a DNF in Rio.

Ben Thorne is in the 20K race walk and is also a serious talent with legitimate top-level capabilities. He won a bronze medal at the Beijing worlds in the time of 1:19:57.

“Our team features a great combination of seasoned world-class performers and talented upcoming athletes who are ready to make their mark,” said Head Coach Glenroy Gilbert. “Canadian success at recent Olympics, Paralympics and World Championships has been noticed and respected around the world. We look to capitalize on that positive momentum and perform at a high level in London.”

The team includes nine World Outdoor Championship medallists and two defending World champions. Nine athletes and one relay team on the roster is currently ranked top 10 on the IAAF performance list.

The competitions will take place in London Stadium, the site of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Full details about the event can be found here>>

Canadian coverage of the meet will be provided by CBC.ca

Canadians in the 2017 Top 10 (as of July 17)
Damian Warner, second, decathlon
Men’s 4x100m, second
Christabel Nettey, third, long jump
Evan Dunfee, fourth, 50km race walk
Andre De Grasse, eighth, 200m
Elizabeth Gleadle, ninth, javelin
Michael Mason, ninth, high jump
Mohammed Ahmed, 10th, 5000m
Mohammed Ahmed, 10th, 10000m
Alysha Newman, 10th, pole vault

In 2015, at the last World Outdoor Championships in Beijing, China, the team won two world titles and eight medals overall. Medallists included Derek Drouin (high jump gold), Shawn Barber (pole vault gold), Brianne Theisen-Eaton (heptathlon silver), Damian Warner (decathlon silver), Melissa Bishop (800-metres silver), Andre De Grasse (100-metres bronze), Benjamin Thorne (20km race walk bronze) and the men’s 4×100-metres relay team (bronze).

Female athletes
Melissa Bishop, 800m, Eganville, Ont., Dennis Fairall, Ottawa Lions Track and Field
Rachel Cliff, 10000m, Vancouver, Richard Lee, Unattached
Brittany Crew, shot put, Toronto, Richard Parkinson, Unattached
Crystal Emmanuel, 100m/200m, East York, Ont., Charles Allen, Flying Angels Track Club – Emmanuel broke the 34-year-old record with a 22.50 in the 200m last week. This puts her in serious medal contention, if all elements of her game are on.

Phylicia George, 100mH, Markham, Ont., Dennis Shaver, Flying Angels Track Club
Elizabeth Gleadle, javelin, Vancouver, Larry Steinke, Chinook Track and Field Club
Rachel Hannah, marathon, Barrie, Ont., David Korell, University of Toronto Track Club
Travia Jones, 400m/4x400m, Regina, Dennis Shaver, Unattached
Tarah Korir, marathon, St. Clements, Ont., Wesley Korir, Unattached
Geneviève Lalonde, 3000m steeplechase, Moncton, N.B., Dave Scott-Thomas, Speed River TFC
Natassha McDonald, 4x400m, Brampton, Ont., Collin Lewis, Project Athletics
Lanni Marchant, 10000m, London, Ont., Dave Mills, London Western Track Club
Noelle Montcalm, 400mH/4x400m, Belle River, Ont., Don Garrod, University of Windsor Athletics Club
Carline Muir, 400m/4x400m, Edmonton, Nick Dakin, Unattached
Christabel Nettey, long jump, Surrey, B.C., Bashir Ramzey, Unattached
Alysha Newman, pole vault, London, Ont., Doug Wood, Bolton Pole Vault
Anicka Newell, pole vault, Saskatoon, Cameron Meyer, Project Athletics
Jessica O’Connell, 5000m, Calgary, Mike Van Tighem University of Calgary Athletics
Dayna Pidhoresky, marathon, Vancouver, Josh Seifarth, Unattached
Sheila Reid,1500m, Newmarket, Ont., Mark Rowland, Newmarket Huskies
Andrea Seccafien, 5000m, Toronto, Ross Ristuccia, University of Toronto Track Club
Nicole Sifuentes, 1500m, Winnipeg, Mike McGuire, Unattached
Gabriela Stafford, 1500m, Toronto, Terry Radchenko, University of Toronto Track Club
Aiyanna Stiverne, 400m/4x400m, Laval, Que., Ronald Morency, Unattached
Sage Watson, 400mH/4x400m, Medicine Hat, Alta., Calgary International
Jillian Weir, hammer throw, Kingston, Ont., Greg Jack, Unattached
Natasha Wodak, 10000m, Vancouver, Lynn Kanuka, Prairie Inn Harriers

Male athletes
Mohammed Ahmed, 5000m/10000m, St. Catharines, Ont., Jerry Schumacher, Niagara Olympic
Bolade Ajomale, 4x100m, Richmond Hill, Ont., Kevin LaSure, Flying Angels
Shawnacy Barber, pole vault, Toronto, Dennis Mitchell, Project Athletics
Mathieu Bilodeau, 50km race walk, Québec City, Gerry Dragomir, Race Walk West
Aaron Brown, 200m/4x100m, Toronto, Dennis Mitchell, Phoenix Athletics
Johnathan Cabral, 110mH, Peribonka, Que., Jamie Cook, Unattached
Andre De Grasse, 100m/200m/4x100m, Markham, Ont., Stuart McMillan, Speed Academy
Evan Dunfee, 50km race walk, Richmond, B.C., Gerry Dragomir, Race Walk West
Derek Drouin, high jump, Corunna, Ont., Jeff Huntoon, Sarnia Athletics Southwest
Eric Gillis, marathon, Antigonish, N.S., Dave Scott Thomas, Speed River
Akeem Haynes, 4x100m, Calgary, Stuart McMillan, Unattached
Matthew Hughes, 3000m steeplechase, Oshawa, Ont., Jerry Schumacher, Unattached
Justyn Knight, 5000m, Toronto, Chris Fox, University of Toronto Track Club
Michael Mason, high jump, Nanoose Bay, B.C., Jeff Huntoon, Unattached
Brandon McBride, 800m, Windsor, Ont., Chris Scarrow, Windsor Legion
Tim Nedow, shot put, Brockville, Ont., Dane Miller, Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club
Brendon Rodney, 4x100m, Brampton, Ont., Simon Hodnett, Hamilton Elite Athletics
Gavin Smellie, 100m/4x100m, Brampton, Ont., Desai Williams, Flying Angels
Ben Thorne, 20km race walk, Kitimat, B.C., Gerry Dragomir, Race Walk West
Thomas Toth, marathon, Peterborough, Ont., Zach Johnson, Unattached
Damian Warner, decathlon, London, Ont., Les Gramantik, Unattached

Staff
Glenroy Gilbert, Ottawa, Head Coach
Carla Nicholls, Regina, Team Leader
Scott MacDonald, Ottawa, Technical Manager
Jared MacLeod, Winnipeg, Team Manager
Corey Dempsey, Niagara Falls, Ont., Assistant Manager
Kurt Downes, Harrow, Ont., Team Coach
Dave Scott-Thomas, Guelph, Ont., Team Coach
Heather Hennigar, Halifax, Team Coach
Jeff Huntoon, Toronto, Team Coach
Richard Parkinson, Stouffville, Ont., Team Coach
Jim McDannald, Montreal, Media Attaché
Danielle Chow-Leong, Toronto, Massage Therapist
Dr. Simon Pearson, Victoria, Chiropractor
Brenda Scott-Thomas, Guelph, Ont., Physiotherapist
Dr. Ricky Singh, Georgetown, Ont., Chiropractor
Lesley Tashlin, Ottawa, Massage Therapist
Dana Way, Winnipeg Beach, Man., Biomechanist
Dr. Paddy McCluskey, Victoria, Team Physician
Dr. Trent Stellingwerff, Victoria, IST Lead/Physiologist
Dr. Penny Werthner, Calgary, Mental Performance

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