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Andre De Grasse powers Canada to gold medal in men’s 4×100 relay at World Championships

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Author: Abdulhamid Ibrahim

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THE CANADIAN PRESS

EUGENE, Krusny — Andre De Grass after his withdrawal from the world 200m race, he made quite a return to the track – a very golden one at that.

The Canadians anchored a team of Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake and Brendon Rodney to set a national record and world lead of 37.48 seconds en route to gold in the men’s 4x100m relay at the world athletics championships on Saturday.

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“(This is) all we’ve been talking about – (we) actually have a great chance to be on the podium,” De Grass he said.

“This year I think a lot of us are fresher – I ran like six races and then Brendon came in the relay, I think that helped us as well. Just being able to practice the relay more and being able to go out and have that team chemistry.”

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The Americans grabbed silver (37.55), while Great Britain claimed bronze (37.83).

The gold was Canada’s third medal at the World Championships.

De Grasslining up side-by-side with American 100m silver medalist Marvin Bracy as he took their batons, he stamped his stamp of closing speed on the final.

The Markham, Ont., native contracted COVID-19 just a month ago and failed to qualify for the 100-metre final before withdrawing his name from the 200-metre event.

That seemed to do wonders for the 27-year-old, along with what was a home crowd cheering the team on.

“It’s special. There’s a lot of Canadian flags out there, a lot of fans cheering us on – that’s it definitely he feels good. It’s not technically at home, but it kind of felt like it.”

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De Grass he wasn’t the only one who was negotiations with the consequences of COVID-19.

Athletics Canada coach Glenroy Gilbert had to coach the team via Zoom because he recently contracted the virus himself.

Despite all that happened, continuity and team chemistry became the name of the game for Team Canada.

“We ran together in the Olympics last year – we have the same team. This year with our head coach going down … It was one of those things where we believe in ourselves and open up the grades a little bit and give us room to work,” Blake said.

“That was the most important thing – just getting the stick moving. Once the lever moves, it doesn’t slow down.’

The win also comes after several near misses by the Canadian team.

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Canada won silver at the Tokyo Olympics last summer and bronze at Rio in 2016, plus bronze at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing. Canada did not make the finals at the last Worlds in 2019 in Doha.

Led by Donovan Bailey, Canada won the 4×100 gold at the 1995 and 1997 World Championships. Gilbert himself was part of that team.

In other Canadian events, Marco Arop continues his huge rise in the men’s 800m.

The Edmonton native earned his first World Championship medal with bronze on Saturday. It was a full-circle moment for the 23-year-old, ranked fourth in the world.

“This will hold a special place in my heart. The first medal from the World Championships – it’s all coming to an end,” said Arop. “Starting from the world champions in Doha and getting to the final, not finishing in the top three and not making it to the Olympic final.

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“It’s just a great moment.

Arop is only the second Canadian man to medal in the event at the World Championships. Gary Reed won silver in 2007 in Osaka, Japan.

Arop finished eighth at the world indoor championships in March and started to build momentum with a win at the Canadian nationals and set the third-fastest time in the world this season three weeks ago at the Pre World Invitational Championships (1:43.61).

The push for bronze was not without scares as Arop had to hold off rising fourth-placed Emmanuel Wonyonyi of Kenya.

“Relieved I didn’t get caught at the line. I mean, I got caught, but I’m happy to come out with a medal.”

Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir won the gold with a time of one minute 43.71 seconds. Algeria’s Djamel Sedjati took silver when he crossed the line in 1:44.14.

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Arop, who ran 1:44.28, made a steady start to the race before leveling with Wonyonyi early in the race.

“Part of me was just thinking, ‘calm down, stay calm.’ You could still come back.”

And he did. Arop took the lead at the 200 meter mark and held onto it for much of the course.

“I knew if I didn’t get under 23 seconds, I’d have some left to go,” he said.

“Once I got the lead I knew I had to make a move early or Korir and Sedjati would come. I knew they could close hard. I made sure I made the move early (and) took some people out of the race.

As the final corner came Korir began to push as Arop looked to be slowing down in the final 100m.

After losing the lead with about 50 meters remaining, Arop was caught by Sedjati with the finish line just a few meters away.

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Arop is looking forward to next year’s World Championships where he feels he could be even better.

“Once I’ve done something, I feel like I could do it again,” he said. “I know next year will be even better and bigger and I think the goal will remain the same.”

Meanwhile, Damian Warner’s quest around the world decathlon the title is over.

The 32-year-old from London, Ont., suffered an apparent hamstring injury about 120 meters into the 400, the final event of the first day, on Saturday.

“I’m not sure yet. I have to go back and see,” Warner said. “I felt my hamstring pull a few times. I was in lane one so I felt like it was pretty tight and I tried to stay in my lane. As soon as I left, I felt like something had happened and I just couldn’t go on.’

The Canadian Olympic champion led the first four events of the day.

Pierce Lepage of Whitby, Ont., was second on Saturday after the first day with 4,485 points. Ayden Owens-Delerme of Puerto Rico moved into the lead after Warner’s injury.

Warner never won the world decathlon gold. He has a silver and two bronzes.

At the Tokyo Olympics last summer, Warner broke his Canadian record, becoming one of only four decathletes break the 9,000-point mark in history.

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