VANCOUVER, BC – The World Championship summer is here, and in a hectic time for Canadian sport, the focus turns to the track while staying in the pool.
While Canada’s best swimmers compete at the FINA World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, the Canadian track and field athletes turn to the Township of Langley, BC, looking to punch their ticket to World Championships and prep for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Over 1,000 athletes will compete at the Bell Canadian Track and Field Championships in BC this week, as Canada joins nations worldwide in competing National Championships.
Some athletes have pre-qualified for the World Championships, and on Tuesday, 43 were named to Canada’s delegation for Birmingham 2022. However, with those focusing on the major meets, in addition to sickness and injury, many of the headliners in Canadian athletics won’t be at McLeod Athletic Park.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Champion Andre de Grasse is out with COVID-19, as is Damian Warner with knee discomfort. Additionally, former U of T Varsity Blues standout Gabriela DeBues-Stafford won’t be hitting the Langley track.
However, despite the absences, there is still an abundance of star power among the national team staples, as well as younger athletes, many in, or recently coming from U SPORTS. Just racing the 100m and 200m men’s races are over 20 current and former student-athletes, with many breaking the 11-second barrier over 100 metres.
Men’s Track: UBC grad Stephen Abosi could push top Olympians
Botswana’s Stephen Abosi is one of those former Canadian university athletes to keep an eye on. He recently broke his nation’s record time in the 100m, and returns to racing in BC after having a successful career with the UBC Thunderbirds.
With a personal best time of 10.28 in the 100, Abosi could push into the elite group of athletes vying for the Canadian title while also pushing for a spot at the World Championships in Eugene, Ore. in July. Although he is now a full-time lawyer in Alberta, Abosi continues to train and thrive in 100m and 200m races.
While he will be up against Olympic contenders such as Jerome Blake and Aaron Brown, Abosi qualified for the National Championships as the 9th fastest over 100m, putting him in a position to challenge for top 10 in Langley.
Men’s Field: Toronto’s Aiden Grout seeks a medal at home
Competing in the men’s high jump event, Toronto Varsity Blues standout Aiden Grout is familiar with competing in BC. A native of nearby Pitt Meadows, Grout comes into the National Championships with medal hopes, albeit likely behind Canadian Olympic and fellow local, Django Lovett.
After representing Canada at the U20 World Championships in Kenya in 2021, Grout, 19, will compete at the senior level, where he will take on athletes far more experienced than him. However, a significant performance could help launch his career to new heights.
His season-high jump of 2.15 came at the OUA Championships in March, where he captured the gold medal. Grout also won U SPORTS gold in New Brunswick with a 2.13 in April. Although those events counted as indoors, they still showed his potential to contend among the best Canadians.
Women’s Track: Toronto alumna Lucia Stafford and Western’s Kate Current
If there were ever a U SPORTS battle to watch, it’s this one, in the women’s 1500m. Lucia Stafford, a former OUA and U SPORTS champion, who made her Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, versus the current U SPORTS champion, Kate Current.
While the age gap favours the more experienced Stafford, recently named to Canada’s Commonwealth Games team, it won’t be an easy victory. Current won the U SPORTS title earlier this year with a 4:20.90, while Stafford’s best is 4:02.12, set at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Stafford is the favourite in the competition, no doubt, but the opportunity is there for Current to establish herself among Canada’s best distance track athletes as she looks beyond her OUA and U SPORTS career with the Western Mustangs.
Women’s Field: Toronto’s Alexzandra Throndson looks to put Olympians on notice
Alexzandra Throndson is a U SPORTS champion, but she’ll be looking to add the 2022 National Championship medalist to her resume too. The current U SPORTS and OUA champion is close to joining Canada’s elite in pole vault. While national team staples such as Alysha Numan, Annika Newell and Robin Bone are ahead of her, the 21-year-old is close to cracking that group.
The Toronto Varsity Blues student-athlete tied Alberta’s Meghan Lim for the gold medal at the 2022 U SPORTS Championships with a jump of 4.05, and both have qualified for the Nationals in an automatic spot.
Coming from the OUA and the Varsity Blues, Throndson has a strong backing from one of the best athletics programs in Canada while already showing well on the Nationals stage, winning U20 AND u18 titles.
While the Toronto native looks to vault herself onto the podium in Langley, it will also be a learning experience for her as she likely looks towards the 2023 World University Games, which come in her final year of U SPORTS eligibility.
Para: TMU’s Marissa Papacostantinou looks for a national title
Marissa Papaconstantinou never raced U SPORTS races, but she is one of the best athletes to come out of Canadian universities in recent years. A 2022 graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University (Ryerson), Papacostantinou will race the 100m and 200m events, looking to add to her lengthy resume that includes Paralympic medals.
The Class 64 para-athlete captured the bronze medal in the 100m event at Tokyo 2020 and will be in contention for the national championship in the distance. While she would likely compete anyways, a good result puts her in strong contention to represent Canada at the Kobe 2022 Para-Athletics World Championships.