Commonwealth Games Day 2 Recap: Three Canadians sail through prelims
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Canada made strong early steps on the second day of athletics competition in Birmingham, as three athletes moved on from qualifying heats and punched their tickets to subsequent rounds. Tuesday, however, contained highs and lows: a middle-distance runner squeaked into the final, a defending Commonwealth champion bowed out of competition earlier than expected, and Canada’s top shot putter qualified for the final in just one throw. Here are the few stories that characterized Day 2 at Alexander Stadium.
BUTTERWORTH SQUEAKS THROUGH TO FINAL
In an unforgiving qualifying round that included the 2022 World Athletics Championships’ second, third and fifth place finishers, Lindsey Butterworth and Maddy Kelly needed near-perfect races to make it through to the next round. Only the top-two in each heat plus the next two fastest athletes would get to race again.
Butterworth lined up first, in heat 2 of 3, and finished fourth in 2:00.04. By the end of the heats, it remained fast enough to grant her the second wild card spot.
“I think there is still room for improvement but It wasn’t an easy field so I’m really happy that I made the final – I’m hoping for a fast one on Saturday,” said Butterworth.
Kelly, meanwhile, faced a stacked third heat. The Canadian national champion finished fifth in 2:02.99, missing the final round.
“They just had a gear I didn’t have today, and that’s disappointing because there was a time in the year when I had that gear,” she said. “I think we just have to chalk this up to the fact that it’s been a long season – I need a break.”
MITTON MAKES SHOT PUT FINAL WITH JUST ONE THROW
Sarah Mitton took no more time than she needed in the shotput circle. The fourth-place finisher at the 2022 World Championships qualified for the final on her first and only throw of the preliminary round, tossing for 18.24 metres. It was the second-best throw of the entire first round, trailing only Jamaican Danniel Thomas-Dodd’s result of 18.42 metres.
“It was one and done. today there were only 13 girls and top 12 qualify, so the main goal was to save energy for tomorrow,” said Mitton, whose personal best of 20.33 metres ranks her fourth in the world this year, and is the best mark by anybody entered in the Commonwealth competition. She will throw again on Wednesday at 3:05 p.m. EST, in what will be her first-ever Commonwealth Games final.
“The energy is really good,” she said, adding that she rarely throws in front of a packed 30,000-person stadium – especially in a qualifying round. “I’m excited for tomorrow.”
NEWELL AND NEWMAN HAVE TOUGH DAY ON POLE VAULT RUNWAY
Canada’s top two pole vaulters had come to Birmingham with resumes cut out for the podium, but fell to fifth and sixth place after struggling to make early jumps.
Anicka Newell and Alysha Newman, who hold personal bests of 4.70m and 4.82m, respectively, finished fifth and sixth overall, this time clearing 4.35m and 4.25m. Newman, the Canadian record holder and defending Commonwealth champion, is a few months removed from enduring year of compromised training after sustaining a concussion and lingering symptoms.
“I’m truly thankful for how far I’ve come since Tokyo and recovering from my concussion but there is still something holding me back from competing at my best,” said Newman.
“I’m not completely sure what is it yet but I’m determined to figure it out. This season was a blessing to be back on the world stage but I still have a lot of work to do. That’s what I’ll be looking forward to.”
MALIK METIVIER BOUNCES BACK FROM INJURY, QUALIFIES FOR 400MH FINAL
Malik Metivier showed he is back from his bout with injury by confidently finishing third in his heat in the 400m hurdles qualifying round. The 23-year-old was nursing a hamstring injury that he incurred after his storybook season with Texas Tech in the NCAA, in which he finished second in the circuit in the 400m hurdles and set a new PB of 48.89.
On Tuesday, he did not need a sub-49 run to get the job done. Metivier cruised to a time of 51.54, punching his ticket to Saturday’s upcoming final.
“I really wanted to come out and drop something devastating on these people because we have four days of rest,” he said. “But coming off hurdle one, it was very evident I was not ready to compete… I just had to stay patient, keep composure.”
His cautious start lost him some ground on the leaders, but a progressively faster lap helped him fend off eventual fourth place finisher Andre Retief of Namibia.
“Coming off the last hurdle, I thought ‘well, I’m gonna get in on time, so I’m not going to let him beat me.”
NORMANDEAU, THIRSK MEET THEIR MATCHES IN THE 100M
Canadian sprinters faced a set of challenging heats throughout the day.
Natalie Thirsk kicked the day off for Canada by setting a personal best of 14.03 in the T37-38 100m heats. But the entire field had brought their A game: Thirsk was one of six women to run lifetime bests, and missed the finals qualifying mark by half a second.
Later in the day, Thomas Normandeau, best known as a 400m runner for his sixth place finish at the Tokyo Paralympics, tested his speed in the T45-47 100m heats. But he also faced a stiff section, and his time of 11.87, barely a quarter of a second off his lifetime best, landed him in fifth place. The 26-year-old, however, was undeterred.
“This is by far one of the most fun games I’ve had – so many people watching and cheering. No matter the outcome, we’re all here to have fun, experience this together, and compete against each other in the years to come.”