May 30th, 2024

Canada’s men’s 4×100 relay team aims to qualify then build on mission at World Relays

By Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press on May 3, 2024.

While the goal is first to qualify for the Paris Olympics, Canada's men's 4x100-metre relay team isn't settling for just that. Canada's Andre De Grasse, Brendon Rodney, Aaron Brown and Jerome Blake celebrate after winning the bronze medal in the men's 4x100m during the summer Tokyo Olympics in Tokyo, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. The medal was later upgraded to silver after the disqualification of second-place Great Britain. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

While this weekend’s goal is to qualify for the Paris Olympics, Canada’s men’s 4×100-metre relay team is aiming higher.

Canada will have its men’s 4×100, 4×400, women’s 4×100 and 4×400, as well as a 4×400 mixed relay team at the World Athletic Relays in Nassau, Bahamas. The first 14 of 16 qualifying spots for the Games in each relay event will be allocated at the competition.

The men’s 4×100 team of Jerome Blake, Brendon Rodney, Aaron Brown and Andre De Grasse are the reigning Olympic silver medallists and 2022 world champions.

“While we’re here, might as well try to win it,” Brown said. “Once we get into the finals, we’re gonna go for broke and really test it out, maybe test out some different legs, see who can do what. Or see if we’re gonna stick with the championship team from Eugene (in 2022).

“It’s really about testing character right now and seeing who’s in shape, what kind of chemistry we can experience and build up and work out the kinks and get ready for Paris. This is like our dress rehearsal and we’re approaching it with seriousness.”

The squad experienced a letdown last summer in Budapest, Hungary when it failed to defend its world title by not qualifying for the final. De Grasse sat out the heats with the 200 final just two hours after the race, and Bolade Ajomale stepped into his place as the anchor.

Brown said the team has moved on without any finger-pointing and shifted its focus on winning Olympic gold in Paris this summer.

Head coach Glenroy Gilbert believes Budapest served as a “wake-up call.”

“I don’t think we, as a group, collectively took it for granted, but I think the second-tier athletes weren’t ready,” he said. “I don’t think they thought we may be without one of our starters and we may need to rely on that next tier. So I think we were caught off guard and unprepared. We are prepared now.”

While the 4×100 team has a track record of success, the men’s 4×400 team has a history of disappointment.

Canada hasn’t fielded a men’s 4×400 team at the Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games, and has only medalled in the event twice – in 1928 and 1932. The Canadian record of three minutes 2.64 seconds, set in 1976, still stands today.

While Gilbert didn’t reveal who would run on the 4×400 and mixed relay teams, notable names expected to participate include 800 world champion Marco Arop and 400 standout Christopher Morales Williams of University of Georgia.

“It’s awesome. I’ve got to tell you, it’s really good to have Christopher coming and his school allowing him to come and run with the Canadian squad for World Relays. I think it helps,” said Gilbert.

Arop played a key role in Canada’s qualification for the World Relays at the Florida Relays in Gainesville, Fla. on March 30.

Gilbert praised Arop’s speed and positive influence on the team.

“Amazing to have his contribution because he’s one of the fastest splits we had in Gainesville a few weeks ago. So, very good to have a body like that and a person of his demeanour overall,” he said. “I think it’s infectious having him around.”

Prior to the Florida Relays, where Canada ran a fast enough time to grab the 32nd and final qualifying spot for worlds, Arop hadn’t run the 4×400 since 2019 while at Mississippi State University.

“The 4×400 that we ran in Florida, that wasn’t the entire team. That was just a few good guys put together to qualify,” Arop said. “I think we are capable to run much faster.

“I don’t want to jinx it, but I do believe that Canadian record is going to be broken this weekend. I’m almost certain of that. By how much, I’m not sure, but I think we’ve got the guys to be competitive on the world stage.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2024.

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