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Athletics Canada – After a strong showing on Day 1 of the IAAF World Athletics Championships, which saw Lyndsey Tessier finish ninth in the women’s marathon through the heat, Canada continued to build on the momentum both on the track and through the streets of Doha.
As Evan Dunfee crossed the finish line of the men’s 50-kilometre race walk competition, he was welcomed by former teammate and friend Inaki Gomez and coach Jerry Dragomir. At that moment, he knew that everything that he has worked for, those around him that supported him along the way, this World Championship bronze medal was for them.
“This follows a long lineage of amazing race walking in Canada,” said Dunfee, who is celebrating his 29th birthday today. “Following their footsteps learning from them, Guillaume Leblanc in ’92 in the 20-kilometres and then more recently, Ben Thorne my teammate winning bronze in the 20.”
“Ben, myself, Inaki Gomez, we were all training partners, we all won Team Challenges, this medal is as much theirs as it is mine. My coach Jerry Dragomir and I have been working together for nine years, it’s just so nice to get here, finally to get onto the podium, this medal belongs to so many people.”
As Dunfee and Mathieu Bilodeau lined up for the men’s 50-kilometre race walk, taking the action to the streets of Doha once again. Starting the race in 20th position, Dunfee quickly fought his way through the pack, reaching fifth place with 10-kilometres to go before charging up the last lap to win the second bronze medal for Canada with a time of 4:05:02. Bilodeau wasn’t far behind, sticking with Dunfee throughout the race, tactically climbing into the top 10 to finish with a time of 4:21:13 for 14 place.
Back in Khalifa International Stadium, the sprint duo of Andre De Grasse and Aaron Brown continued their quest towards the top of the podium. De Grasse put on a statement race, beating out Jamaican Yohan Blake and number one ranked 100-metre sprinter in the world this season, American Justin Gatlin, to win Heat 2 in a time of 10.07. Brown got things started in Heat 1 of the men’s 100-metre semifinals, finishing second to punch reserve his spot in the final.
With the top eight 100-metre sprinters in the world on the line, De Grasse showed why he remains among the sprinting elite leading into next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. With a personal-best time of 9.90, the 24 year-old earned the bronze medal to earn Canada’s first podium finish.
“I’m grateful to find myself back on the podium, thought I could do a little bit better but now it’s time to prepare for the 200-metres,” said De Grasse, who was 0.06 seconds off of the Canadian-record held by Donovan Bailey at 9.84 seconds. “To come back from injuries the past couple years, I’m staying positive and tell myself that I can come back and be where I was, today was definitely a good sign with the personal-best.”
Brown put on a strong showing as well, holding his position out of the blocks, stopping the clock at 10.08 to finish eighth overall. “My plan going into the season wasn’t even to run the 100-metres, focusing on the 200-metres, so to make my first final, I can’t complain. I got the 200-metres tomorrow so I can’t dwell on it.”
After claiming the silver medal at the IAAF World Relays in May, the Canadian mixed 4×400-metre relay team made their World Championships debut and didn’t disappoint. The team of Austin Cole, Aiyanna Stiverne, Madeline Price, and Philip Osei, put on the fastest mixed relay in Canadian history, beating out their previous record set during the silver medal winning World Relays.
“We came out here and executed what we needed to do,” said Cole. “We prepared full time in Spain, we did the best we could.
Price added, “The energy here at Worlds, we wanted to make the final, we did everything we could today, so we are proud of the national record, proud of how we executed, we’ll keep moving forward.”
Getting the day started on the straightaway, Crystal Emmanuel booked her ticket into the women’s 100-metre semifinals by running 11.30 seconds. “I didn’t really feel the start but I came through strong to finish in fifth.”
In the long sprints, the duo of Brandon McBride and Marco Arop were up next on the track, cruising in comfortably over the finish line and into the 800-metre semifinals. In his first senior World Championships, Arop finished with a time of 1:46.12 for second place in Heat 1, auto-qualifying.
“I was really looking forward to racing against those guys like Donovan Brazier and of course Brandon McBride, it’s always fun racing with him, but to see the world class athletes that he’s been racing against all year is a special feeling.”
McBride looked the part, comfortably crossing the finish line after sitting in fourth place over the two laps before striding passed the other competitors to win Heat 3, joining Arop in the semifinals tomorrow.
“This season’s been a blessing. I’m running as consistent as I’ve ever been and it’s always really nice seeing fellow Canadians doing well,” added McBride. “Marco is an extraordinary athlete. It’s very helpful for the both of us to be pushing each other and Canada. It’s one of the first times we’ve had two really strong runners under 1:44 or below so it will be a great time for many years to come.”
Lindsey Butterworth continued her World Championships in the women’s 800-metre semifinals, stopping the clock just shy of her personal-best of 2:00.31 by running 2:00.74. She will not be moving onto the final but was happy with how she ran the race today.
“I think I ran the best race tactically ever so I’m really happy with how I raced and really put myself out there,” said Butterworth, who finished 10th overall.
With the first medal for Canada earned, Day 3 will feature more opportunities to get onto the podium. Aaron Brown, Andre De Grasse and Brendon Rodney will step into the blocks for the men’s 200-metre heats, while Crystal Emmanuel will look to punch her ticket to the women’s 100-metre finals. Brandon McBride and Marco Arop return to the track for the 800-metre semifinals, while Alysha Newman and Rachel Seaman look to represent Canada strong in the women’s pole vault and women’s 20-kilometre race walk finals, respectively.
It’s only two days into the 2019 World Athletics Championships and De Grasse is looking forward to many more great performances from his teammates.
“I think a lot of us have a chance to medal, Aaron in the 200, Alysha Newman in the pole vault, Damian Warner in the decathlon, just to name a few, so definitely looking forward to the rest of the Championships.”