On the final day of competition at the 2017 IAAF World Championships, Melissa Bishop of Eganville, Ont., finished fifth in arguably the most difficult race of the Championships – the women’s 800-metres. Though it’s not the finish Bishop was hoping for – a gold medal is still her goal and she has nearly four more years to do it – she ran a strong race to wrap-up the competition for Canada.
Athletics Canada’s head coach, Glenroy Gilbert said, “We encountered adversity with injuries and illness to some of our top medal hopefuls, but the team came through with 12 Top 8 finishes in London, a great indicator of the depth and breadth of the program.” Gilbert adds, “The Olympic cycle is all about overcoming obstacles, this experience will serve the group well going into Tokyo. Seeing so many athletes finish in the Top 8 is encouraging in the first phase of this new Olympic cycle.”
The team recorded nine Top 8 finishes at the 2013 World Championships, 12 at the 2015 World Championships and 13 at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Canada placed 15th on the IAAF Placing Table (Top 8 scoring table) with 30 points – two fifth, five sixth, two seventh and three eighth.
Top 8 in London 2017
Melissa Bishop, 5th, 800-metres
Damian Warner, 5th, decathlon
Mohammed Ahmed, 6th, 5000-metres
Brittany Crew, 6th, shot put
Matthew Hughes, 6th, 3000-metres steeplechase
Sage Watson, 6th, 400-metre hurdles
Men’s 4×100-metre relay, 6th (Gavin Smellie, Aaron Brown, Brendon Rodney, Mobolade Ajomale)
Crystal Emmanuel, 7th, 200m
Alysha Newman, 7th, pole vault
Mohammed Ahmed, 8th, 10000-metres
Shawn Barber, 8th, pole vault
Brandon McBride, 8th, 800m
Starting in lane six for the women’s 800-metres final, Canadian record-holder Bishop looked to erase the memories of her fourth-place finish in Rio by putting herself in a good position after 400-metres. Though she fought hard and had a strong race, Bishop crossed the finish line fifth in a time of 1:57.68. The entire field, which featured a trio of athletes who stood on the podium at the 2016 Olympic Games, went under 1:59.
When asked about the race, Bishop said “It felt pretty comfortable and I knew it would open up. I was just too far back to make a move when they moved. I couldn’t make the ground up. If I was closer to the front, then it might have been a different story. Where I was on the track when they were ready to go, I was just too far back. I really wanted to put Canada on the map with a medal tonight, but it’s just not in the cards.”
Though it’s hard to put into words at the moment, Bishop is already looking ahead to Tokyo 2020. “We are running 1:57s with ease right now. Four more years of racing and really hard training, we’ll be able to come out on top. I’m tired of running 1:57s, I want something faster. I think we are right there to be honest. I think if I was closer to the front of the pack, I’m positive we could have run 1:56 (tonight). We are right on the cuff. Winning is the ultimate goal going into (a race). I don’t think anyone here goes in not wanting to win.”
Evan Dunfee of Richmond, B.C., completed the 50-kilometres race walk in a time of 3:47:36, good for 15th place. He was hanging around 10th place at the 10 to 15 kilometre mark, then made a move at 25 kilometres that put him in sixth place. “I just wasn’t good enough. I felt really good, really comfortable. I don’t want to make excuses. I picked up a cold on Tuesday; I was very confident that I would get over it,” said Dunfee following the race. “The same thing happened last year in Rio, I got sick after the 20km. I just stayed calm and thought I’d get better. I woke up today feeling pretty close to better, but during the race I was coughing a lot and I felt like I couldn’t get full deep breaths.”
At 35 kilometres he was in the bronze medal position, but just didn’t have enough in the tank to hang on to that position and would fall back to 15th by the end of the race. “I think in the end that might have been the ultimate thing. I was a little bit lacking getting that oxygen to the legs. I just couldn’t get quite deep enough breaths. That’s the name of the game sometimes. Everything today was set-off perfectly to go fast. I really believed I was in 3:38 to 3:40 shape. I put myself in there, gave myself a shot. As soon as the wheels started to come off a little bit, I had nothing, no response whatsoever. In Rio, when things started to slow down a little bit, I was able to re-group and limit the damage, and today as soon as it came off it unwound so quickly.”
Mathieu Bilodeau of Vancouver was 25th in the 50-kilometres race walk in a season’s best 3:56:54.
Ben Thorne of Kitimat, B.C., was 51st in the 20-kilometres race walk in a time of 1:26:56. “I couldn’t go fast today. It was a disaster,” said Thorne when he met with the media following the race. “The pace was quite fast right from the get-go and I think when I realized I couldn’t hold that I blew-up mentally a little bit. And then it just sort of spiraled downhill from there. I have a bit of a cold, so it’s a bit hard. I don’t know if that was a factor.”
Thorne was left baffled as he was in good shape and spirits to do something good in London. “I was fairly fit. But then again you never know. Well off my season’s best. I think I’m going to take some time off and seriously look at what I’m doing. I’m done for the time being. Sorry to everyone who woke up early to watch me. I feel really bad.”