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De Grasse will miss World Athletics Relays with second baby due next month

Three-time Olympic medallist Andre De Grasse won't be with Canada's sprint team when it races on the global stage for the first time in more than a year.

Three-time Olympic medallist Andre De Grasse won't be with Canada's sprint team when it races on the global stage for the first time in more than a year.

Canada is sending a team of 24 athletes to the World Athletics Relays next month in Poland in the quest for Tokyo Olympic berths, but De Grasse and partner Nia Ali, the reigning world 100-hurdles champion from the U.S., are expecting their second baby.

"With the obvious focus being the Tokyo Olympics we have made the decision to pass on the World Relays this year. I have a baby due in early May and wouldn’t want to risk being overseas when the baby arrives," De Grasse said in a statement. "I wish the best for my teammates and for all involved in the event."

Aaron Brown and Crystal Emmanuel headline the Canadian team for the event May 1-2 in Chorzow.

"I know going into the championship that Glenroy (Gilbert), our head coach, will convey the message of qualifying for Tokyo before anything else," said Brown, who'll race the men's 4x100-metre relay. "As one of the veteran leaders on this team, I echo that sentiment."

The meet marks the first global track event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will bring together 1,000 athletes from 46 countries vying for spots in both the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 world championships in Eugene, Or.

De Grasse and Brown were both on the men's 4x100 relay that won bronze at the 2016 Olympics, but it has yet to qualify for Tokyo.

Beside the lack of competitions, Canadian track and field athletes have been particularly hard hit compared to many of their opponents because of Canada's travel restrictions around the pandemic.

"Globally, everyone has struggled over the past year, but in Canada we have faced a number of challenges including several lockdowns and a lack of training space for our athletes," Gilbert said.

The 24 Canadians will gather for a training camp in Baton Rouge, La., before travelling to Poland.

"Due to the global pandemic it has been well over a year since this group has trained or competed together," Gilbert said. "This camp will be essential in building back the group cohesiveness and unity, not to mention the skills required to run fast as a team."

De Grasse, a 26-year-old from Markham, Ont., won silver in the 200 and bronze in the 100 at the same world championships in 2019 in Doha, Qatar, that Ali captured the women's hurdles title. Ali scooped up their daughter Yuri for her victory lap, while her son Titus from a previous relationship ran alongside them.

Canadian World Relays Team:

Bolande Ajomale (men's 4x100); Andre Azonwanna (men's 4x100); Khamica Bingham (women's 4x100); Jerome Blake (men's 4x100); Bismark Boateng (men's 4x100); Aaron Brown (men's 4x100); Alicia Brown (womens, mixed 4x400); Leya Buchana (women's 4x100); Austin Cole (mixed 4x400); Joshua Cunningham (mixed 4x400); Emmanuel (women's 4x100): Shaina Harrison (women's 4x100); Farah Jacques (women's 4x100); Audrey Leduc (women's 4x100); Sade McCreath-Tardiel (women's 4x100); Philip Osei (mixed 4x400); Michal Powell (women's, mixed 4x400); Madeline Price (women's, mixed 4x400); Brendon Rodney (men's 4x100): Zeo Sherar (women's, mixed 4x400); Gavin Smellie (men's 4x100); Aiyanna Stiverne (women's, mixed 4x400); Katherine Surin (women's, mixed 4x400); Sage Watson (women's, mixed 4x400).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2021.

The Canadian Press