That a Canadian is in the 200m final in athletics is already a feat. That two Canadians are on the starting line is an event that has not been seen for 93 years. Andre De Grasse and Aaron Brown qualified brilliantly for the big meeting on Wednesday morning.
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At 8:55 a.m. (Quebec time), the two Canadian sprinters will set off in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. The last time such a scenario happened, in 1928, Percy Williams won gold and Johnny Fitzpatrick finished fifth.
Yesterday, Brown and De Grasse formalized their presence in the final by inviting them through the front door.
“We have depth in Canada. We want to represent the maple leaf as best we can. I’m proud of it, ”Brown told Radio-Canada after covering the distance in 19.99 s, the best time of his wave and his best time of the year.
In the case of De Grasse, there are no surprises. The 26-year-old Ontarian finished second at the Rio Games in 2016 and clinched the same position at the World Championships in 2019.
The country as a whole therefore expects a medal. Nevertheless, his sparkling performance in the semifinals no doubt provoked a collective sigh of relief.
In qualifying, he did just enough to finish third with a time of 20.56 s. In the semifinals, he turned on the turbo to set a Canadian record in 19.73 s.
De Grasse said when he woke up he felt very tired and the heat seemed overwhelming. A long nap made her husband laugh!
“When I woke up I felt good,” he said.
“I wasn’t expecting this Canadian record. My trainer just told me to push 150m and see what it was. Towards the end I saw to my left that the American [Kenneth Bednarek] was still there, so I gave it a shot, ”he told the CBC.
It remains to be seen whether De Grasse’s newfound energy will be able to propel him back onto the podium. Casually, at the end of last week, the most prominent sprinter in the country also invested a good dose of effort in the 100m event to get a bronze medal.
“I am very happy to have broken my record. It had been five years since I had done this. I feel like I still have my 200m legs. I feel ready for tomorrow [aujourd’hui] He said in comments broadcast by Athletics Canada.
In Brown’s case, this will be his first individual career final.
“I pushed hard for the first 40 or 50 meters. Then I stayed relaxed. I didn’t even know I won. I just wanted to qualify for the final, ”he said.
The 29-year-old Torontonian is still used to great moments, he who was part of the 4x100m relay team that took bronze in Rio.
An impressive feat
Canada’s Aaron Brown edged Liberian Joseph Fahnbulleh (center) and American Noah Lyles (right) in his 200m semi-final wave on Tuesday.
Quebec athletes from the athletic world believe that the presence of two Canadians in the 200m final should be saluted and that it is even possible to dream of two medals.
“If they are lucky, the Canadiens could finish 1 and 3 or 2 and 3,” said Daniel St-Hilaire, a recently retired coach who worked in the field for nearly 50 years.
He, who has worked alongside Bruny Surin, Nicolas Macrozonaris, Alain Metellus and Charles Lefrançois, believes that unless there is a disaster, De Grasse will be on the podium. Aaron Brown should not be overlooked.
“Brown is still a very genetically gifted athlete. He won medals at world junior championships. He has always been among the best in the world in his age group and there he just broke. “
An American to Watch
“De Grasse has a guy to beat and he’s the American [Kenneth Bednarek]. He runs relaxed, so he may have saved himself for the final. In Brown’s case, it will be harder. I think he must have given a lot in the semifinals, ”he believes.
For St-Hilaire, De Grasse’s rich background in major events will serve its cause.
“The Games are stressful. The person who is able to be cool and keep calm has a chance. From Grasse, we don’t talk about his first Games. He has always won medals in major competitions. It’s a gamer. He raises his level of play the higher the stake, ”he explains.
Good show in sight
For the coach of the Quebec athletics team, Félix-Antoine Lapointe, there is no doubt that the presence of two Canadians will make it possible to live a great moment.
“It’s really impressive, especially since we are not talking about Canadians who will have extras roles. They did very well in the semi-finals. It’s exciting and it’s good to know that Canadians are there when it matters, ”he said.
Like St-Hilaire, he is convinced that De Grasse will savor a medal.
“The color remains to be seen. We wish him gold, even if that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Anything can happen and we saw it with the Italian [Lamont Marcell Jacobs] that nobody saw coming in the 100m final, ”he recalls with caution.
If the performances of the two Canadians are up to par, it can only be beneficial for sport in the country.
“It’s inspiring for Canadian athletics and it will bring a new generation of runners,” said Lapointe.