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De Grasse narrowly advances to world 100-metre semifinals with late surge

EUGENE, Ore. — For much of Andre De Grasse's 100-metre heat on Friday night, the rust from not racing and the ravages of COVID-19 seemed apparent.
Canada's Camryn Rogers, of Richmond, B.C., competes during qualifying for the women's hammer throw at the World Athletics Championships Friday, July 15, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. Rogers qualified for the final with her throw. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David J. Phillip

EUGENE, Ore. — For much of Andre De Grasse's 100-metre heat on Friday night, the rust from not racing and the ravages of COVID-19 seemed apparent.

But with about 20 metres to go, the six-time Olympic medallist found another gear to surge into second place, automatically qualifying for Saturday's semifinals at the world track and field championships.

"Good to just kind of get the rust off today," De Grasse said. "So, now I can just … let it all out (Saturday) in the semifinals. It's going to be a tough one. So, I've just got to go out there and try to run a season's best."

His time of 10.12 seconds was 19th fastest on a night of sizzling runs at Hayward Field. Fred Kerley, the Tokyo Olympic silver medallist, led the heats with an eye-popping 9.79, while American teammate Trayvon Bromell ran 9.89 for second.

"The track is amazing. The atmosphere is great. So, definitely going to be some fast times (Saturday)," De Grasse said. "There's a lot of people who can get on that podium, so just got to take it one race at a time to try to qualify, and get through to the final."

Aaron Brown of Toronto ran 10.06, his best of the season, to advance.

The final is also Saturday.

De Grasse, a 27-year-old from Markham, Ont., has never missed the podium in an individual race at the world championships or Olympics. He has four bronze medals in the 100 metres, in two worlds and two Olympics. 

But a foot injury slowed him down earlier in the season. He was finally rounding into form, running 10.05 on June 16 to win the Oslo Diamond League, but announced a couple days later he'd contracted COVID-19. He said in an interview with The Canadian Press recently that even walking up the stairs left him short of breath. 

Although he's listed in the 200, his better event and the distance in which he sprinted to Olympic gold in Tokyo, he said recently that whether he'll run it in Eugene could be a "game-time decision." 

It took Camryn Rogers, meanwhile, just one throw to clinch a spot in her first world hammer throw final.

The 23-year-old from Richmond, B.C., unleashed a throw of 73.67 metres on the opening day of the world track and field championships, surpassing the automatic qualifying mark of 73.50. She then called it a day.

"We went in there with the plan to execute and get it done on the first throw," Rogers said. "It's a plan and a point that we've worked to make consistent over the entire season. And so to come here and get the job done when it counts, it's everything. And so now we can move forward and get really excited and get hyped for the final (Sunday)."

It was the fourth best throw on the day, but well shy of her Canadian record of 77.67 she hit last month. That mark ranked her No. 4 in the world.

Jillian Weir of Kingston, Ont., also qualified for the hammer final with a throw of 72.00.    

Rogers was fifth in her Olympic debut last summer in Tokyo, and was the youngest athlete in the final. She's aiming to smash her Canadian record in the final, which could clinch her Canada's first medal in the event.

"We always have a plan … coming into Tokyo, my first Olympics, it was so exciting," she said. "And now we know that there is more to go. There's more space to improve. And you can always work on things and work to push yourself even more to get to those next levels. 

"And so the plan is to keep building … and get a new (personal best). And if that means also walking away with a medal, then that's our goal."

A couple of weeks after shattering her Canadian record in the shot put, Sarah Mitton's throw of 19.38 metres, on her second toss, earned her a spot in Saturday's final. 

"Qualifying was awesome," she said. "I knew I had what was in there to go out and throw at 18.90, when I heard that was the automatic qualifier. It was just about going out and believing in myself and trusting all the work that I've done … 19.38 is nothing to joke about, it's my best performance on this level." 

The 26-year-old from Brooklyn, N.S., is ranked No. 3 in the world after she unleashed a throw of 20.33 metres — a huge Canadian record — at the national championships. At the time, it was the world's farthest throw this season. 

Django Lovett, a 30-year-old from Surrey, B.C., was flawless in men's high jump qualifying to begin his quest for a medal at the world track and field championships. Lovett cleared a season's best 2.28 metres on his first attempt to clinch his spot in Monday's final. 

He was one of just six jumpers who made that height on their first attempt.

"My goal was to be clear all the way through and not muck about, and we got that job done," said Lovett, whose mom drove eight hours to Eugene to watch.

"It was great to see her in the crowd," he said. "The fans were phenomenal. It was a very vibrant and happy, encouraging environment."

Lovett finished eighth in his Olympic debut in Tokyo last summer. The 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist won the Birmingham Diamond League meet in May.

Canada has 59 athletes competing at the championships, the world's third largest sporting event behind the Olympics and the World Cup, at Hayward Field.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2022.

The Canadian Press