Yesterday was Canada’s best day ever at the IAAF World Championships. Ben Thorne of Kitimat, B.C., led off day two of competition with Canada’s first medal, taking bronze in the 20km race walk in a new Canadian record of 1:19:57. Brianne Theisen-Eaton of Humboldt, Sask., repeated her performance from the 2013 World Championships, winning silver in the heptathlon with a total score of 6554 points and Andre De Grasse of Markham, Ont., won bronze in the men’s 100-metres in a personal best time of 9.92 seconds.
Thorne’s bronze is Canada’s first World Championship podium in the race walk. His training partners, Evan Dunfee of Richmond, B.C., and Inaki Gomez of Vancouver, B.C., were 13th and 15th respectively. All three went under the Olympic standard to qualify for Rio. Dunfee, Gomez and Thorne are all part of the same group coached by Gerry Dragomir.
Brianne Theisen-Eaton made a major move towards the podium in the long jump. She came into the event in fourth place, her jump of 6.55-metres placed her second in group B earning her 1023 points moving her into second place going into the javelin throw. She injured her hamstring in the javelin on her first throw (42.94m, 724 points), pulled up on her second attempt and passed on the third. Going into the final event she was in the bronze medal position. She gutted out the 800-metres, injured leg and all, to cross the line in 2:11:52 earning 942 points and locking up the silver.
Theisen-Eaton, “I’m happy with how it turned out, at the beginning if you told me I would get the silver I would have been upset, I went to bed in tears after the first day, trying to figure out what was going on. Now I’m relieved, I’m exhausted and I’m happy, you have to take something from every situation, maybe this will be more valuable than the gold in the long run, going into Rio. I’m thinking positively and that’s the key. When I walked out there for the javelin I knew something wasn’t right with my groin. My coach (Harry Mara) asked me if I could get one throw in, and I did. Then I was in tears again, a lot of tears these last two days. Ashton said get on the line (for the 800m) and just see how it feels.”
Andre De Grasse ran 9.96 in the first of three men’s 100-metre semis to advance to the final. De Grasse tied fellow NCAA competitor Trayvon Bromell for bronze, both with matching times to the hundredth of a second. “I didn’t know you can actually tie with someone, I was waiting to see who they were going to give it to, Bromell or me, both of us got it, I’m really happy for him. I’m proud to come away with a personal best, to race against these guys and make the final; I couldn’t end the season any better than that. Running in lane nine wasn’t going to distract me, all the lanes are 100-metres. It was the biggest race of my life, wasn’t going to think about lane assignment. Being right there with Bolt in the semis raised my confidence a lot. My coach said just go with him, they’ll take you to where you need to be.” This is Canada’s best finish in the 100-metres at the World Championships since Bruny Surin won silver in 1999 (Sevilla, Spain).
Thorne was still in shock in the mixed zone, “To be honest I was hoping for top eight, as the race went on I thought, well I feel pretty good, a bunch of people went off about 14k, I still felt decent so I went with it, to see if I can hang on. All of a sudden I was in fourth and the guy in front of me got disqualified, I was thinking, I have never been in this position before… I am completely overwhelmed right now, and the national record is a bonus.”
Thorne on the special bond he shares with his training group, “My relationship with Evan and Inaki is definitely a special one, I don’t know what I would do without them, they’re the ones that motivate me to get out of bed in the morning and get out to practice. I’ve been training a lot with Inaki this summer, and that’s a big part of why I did so well in this race, it’s because of him.”
Dunfee placed 13th in a seasonal best of 1:21:48. He credits their groups success on race walking being part of the British Columbia High School program, “That has a huge impact on getting kids started younger, and then carrying it through.” Dunfee has also been very vocal about banning repeated drug cheats and arguably played a large role in the banning of a large group of Russian walkers, “I was very confident on the start line that the large majority of the athletes were clean, that’s what we’ve been fighting for all year.”
Gomez finished 15th in a seasonal best of 1:21:55. “It was a pretty fast race, we knew this morning when it wasn’t too hot that people we’re going to go for it. My plan was to stick with the group and see how far I can go. I battled an injury last season so I wanted to test it and see where I was. I stuck with them for about 11km, they obviously had an extra gear. My goal then became to get the Olympic standard and I did that.”
Gomez on Thorne’s amazing performance, “Ben’s performance was huge, he came in shape and ready to go, he just took off. Shows the strength of our group. I’m ecstatic about the group, the support from Athletics Canada, Own the Podium and Sport Canada has been great, watch out in Rio, we have three medal threats in this event.”
Sage Watson of Calgary, Alta., was fifth in heat 2 of the women’s 400-metre hurdles in 56.08. She made it through to the semi-finals as the second fastest time qualifier. “It’s a hundredth of a second off my personal best, I am happy with it, I felt I put what I had on the track.”
Three women took part in the women’s 100-metres heats. Crystal Emmanuel of Toronto, Ont., placed fifth in heat 3 in 11.33. Kim Hyacinthe of Terrebonne, Que., finished sixth in heat 5 in 11.54 and Khamica Bingham of Brampton, Ont., finished fifth in heat 6 in 11.30. None of the three advanced to the semis.
Tim Nedow of Brockville, Ont., recorded a best throw of 19.63-metres in shot put qualifying, he did not advance to the final and places 20th overall.
Story and Photo from Athletics Canada | Athletics.ca