Doha World Championships Day 1: Tessier ninth in women’s marathon

Newman, De Grasse lead strong qualification rounds for Canada

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The 2019 Doha World Athletics Championships have finally arrived. After months of preparation, it was time to perform.

In the only final of the day, the trio of Lyndsay Tessier, Melanie Myrand and Sasha Gollish took to the streets of Doha for the women’s marathon. With temperatures nearing the 40-degree mark, they were able to execute their race plan to the finish line.

In the end, it was Tessier who was the first Canadian to cross the finish line after maneuvering up the pack with strong splits throughout the race. Finishing in a season’s best time of 2:42:03, the Grade 3 teacher from Scarborough, Ont., climbed to 14th place at the 30 km mark before a huge final 10 km finish 9th overall.

“It went well both mentally and physically,” said Tessier, thanking the staff for supplying water and giving towels. “They did everything that was needed. Once I was able to get into a rhythm of the race, it settled everyone’s nerves. The weather became just something that I needed to deal with.

Myrand wasn’t far behind, tactically picking off other runners to finish in 27th with a time of 2:57:40. Gollish, shortly after the midway mark of the race, had to bow out after suffering from extreme heat related stress.

“I was worried (when I saw that Gollish had dropped out), but then I saw her cheering loudly, screaming the loudest,” added Tessier. “That’s hugely bittersweet because she dropped out and couldn’t have her day but was still equally as happy for me.”

Kicking off the day, birthday girl Lindsey Butterworth earn herself a spot in the women’s 800-metre semifinals after running 2:01.64 in Heat 3 of the qualification round. She will enter tomorrows semifinals with the eighth fastest time overall.

After the race, the now 27 year-old says she is happy with her run. “I ran tactically the best I could have run. The finish in the last 20 metres just wasn’t there, but still a good time of 2:01.64.”

Andre De Grasse and Aaron Brown made their long awaited return to World Championship action in the men’s 100 metre qualifying heats, cruising into tomorrow’s semfinals. In Heat 1, Brown got things started for the duo, cruising to a second place finish with a time of 10.16. De Grasse took to the track in Heat 3, stopping the clock at 10.13, edging out Great Britain’s Adam Gemili for second place.

“I was very comfortable,” said Brown. “Once I felt I was in a position to qualify, I shut it down at the end, reserving my energy for the next couple rounds. I know I have to bring my best. There are a lot of fast guys coming up.”

De Grasse made his return after missing the 2017 World Championships and says he feels good. “I haven’t been here in a while, having to come back from injury so I’m just taking it one race at a time, get to the finals and lay it all out.”

Coming into the World Championships with a total of six athletes competing in the 3000-metre steeplechase events, Geneviève Lalonde led the women as she qualifies for the finals.

“My goal is to stick with that group, and I knew times were going to be fast,” said Lalonde. “I came really close to that Canadian record and I’ve been really consistent at that 9:30 mark. I’m looking to get out there and try my best.”

Her time of 9:30.01 was just shy of her Canadian record time of 9:29.82 which she set in Shanghai earlier this year. She will be ranked 15th heading into the finals on Monday.

Regan Yee and Maria Bernard completed the trio and although they didn’t make the finals, they are happy with gaining the experience.

“I feel like I did the best I could today, I had fun out there and it was so cool to be running in that stadium with all those girls,” said Yee, who is on her first World Championships team. “I’m happy I got the chance to represent Canada here.

“I was really happy with how I raced during the first three laps but after I took a dip in the water pit, I just told myself to get up. But I’m thankful for this experience and I learned a lot,” added Bernard.

In the women’s pole vault qualifiers, Alysha Newman continued her strong season, executing a clean performance. Needing only three jumps, the Canadian record holder soared over the auto-qualifying height of 4.60-metres, entering the finals in a tie for first place.

“I was really excited and felt a lot better than I thought,” said Newman. “I trained through today’s competition just so I could perform really well on Sunday. Everything worked, everything went as planned today.”

Kelsie Ahbe made her return to Team Canada after an injury sidelined her for the 2018 season. On the runway, she cleared over 4.35-metres on her first attempt before bowing out at 4.50-metres. Although not the result she wanted, Ahbe says this is a step in the right direction heading into 2020.

“I’m really proud of myself to be back at this level competing. It’s a personal win after being out all year, it was a real grind to getting back to top level competitions. I’m excited about that and looking forward to Tokyo.”

Closing out the day on the track, the duo of Mohammed Ahmed and Justyn Knight toed the line for the men’s 5000-metre heats. Ahmed ran a tactical race, sticking with the lead group throughout the race and finished with a time of 13:25.95.

“I put myself in a good position and when I got boxed in I looked for openings, saving gears and I thought I did that,” said Ahmed.

After watching Ahmed run in Heat 1, Knight was up next in Heat 2 and was looking to join him in the finals. “For the first eight minutes I was praying to God and hoping I was the next fastest person in, said a smiling Knight. “I think I ran a better race in 2017 but I’m only as good as my last race so I can look back, rest up, and look forward to my next race.

That next race will be the 5000-metre finals, as Knight’s time of 13:25.95 booked his spot into the finals on Monday night.

The 2019 World Athletics Championships continue tomorrow in Doha, as Crystal Emmanuel steps into the blocks for the women’s 100-metre heats, while Aaron Brown and Andre De Grasse look to earn their spot in the final on the men’s side tomorrow night. Lindsey Butterworth will run in the women’s 800-metre semifinals and Brandon McBride and Marco Arop begin their World Championships in the men’s 800-metre qualifying heats. Closing out the night, Natasha Wodak will look to continue her dominance in the women’s 10,000-metre final before Mathieu Bilodeau and team captain Evan Dunfee take to the streets of Doha for the men’s 50-kilometre race walk.