In pursuit of 5th Olympic medal, Andre De Grasse eases into 200m semifinals
Andre De Grasse remains on track to repeat his triple-medal Olympic performance from 2016.
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The decorated Canadian sprinter easily advanced to the 200-metre semifinals on Tuesday in Tokyo, placing third in his heat in 20.56 seconds.
Amid temperatures that reached at least 36 C plus humidity, De Grasse appeared to hold back some, a possible change in strategy after claiming the best qualifying time in the 100 heats on the weekend.
Besides the harsh conditions, De Grasse also battled through another false start in his heat — the fifth he’s been involved in at these Olympics in four races.
The Markham, Ont., native ran a personal-best 9.89 to take bronze in the men’s 100 on Sunday. It was his fourth Olympic medal after becoming the first Canadian to ever win three on the track at the 2016 Rio Games, when he took silver in the 200 behind Usain Bolt, along with bronze in the 100 and 4x100m relay.
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He is the only contender from the 100 attempting the double in Tokyo.
Fellow Canadian Aaron Brown also advanced on Tuesday, winning his heat in 20.38.
Brown, 29, chose to give up the 100m in Tokyo so he could focus on his stronger distance, the 200, with fresher legs.
“It feels good. Glad to get my feet wet finally, join in on the action. We’ve seen some great performances already, so glad to be safely through. Didn’t want to gas it too much but the main thing was just to qualify,” Brown said after the race.
The decision appears to be paying off in the early going for the Toronto native and current Canadian champion.
“I really think that I gave myself the best chance to be on the podium in the 200 by forgoing the 100. Not trying to spread myself too thin like I did [at 2019 worlds in] Doha. I’ll double in the future, so it’s not like I’m done with the 100 forever, but I really want to give myself the best chance here,” Brown said.
At the 2016 Olympics, Brown placed 16th in the 200m and 31st in the 100m.
The top three runners in each of the seven heats, plus the next three fastest, advanced to the semifinals later Tuesday. The final is scheduled to be run Wednesday evening in Tokyo.
After placing sixth in his heat, Canada’s Brendon Rodney failed to advance with a time of 21.60.
The 200 is De Grasse’s top event. Whereas the 100m was viewed as a wide-open field and played out that way, American Noah Lyles is the runaway favourite in the 200 with De Grasse, 26, his top competition.
Lyles ran 20.18 on Tuesday.
The Canadian set a national record in the distance in Rio, blazing past the finish line in 19.80 seconds. He’s ranked second in the discipline by World Athletics, behind Lyles whose personal best is 19.50.
Brown, whose PB is 19.95, is ranked sixth. He won bronze alongside De Grasse in the Rio relay.
American Erriyon Knighton, 17, cruised to a 20.55 to win his heat and instantly entered the podium conversation. Kenny Bednarek, also of the U.S., posted the best time in heats at 20.01.
Canada’s Constantine advances
Canada’s Kyra Constantine is into the women’s 400 semifinals.
Running in a heat with Bahrainian star Shaunae Miller-Uibo on Tuesday in Tokyo, Constantine burst out of the blocks, but slowed down late, falling to fifth in her heat. She crossed the line with a time of 51.69 seconds.
“I tried my best to execute [my race plan]. My first 200 was great. My second could have been executed a little better,” she said moments after the race.
Still, it was enough to advance with one of the six fastest times outside the top three athletes in each heat. The semifinals are set for Tuesday evening ahead of the final on Thursday.
The 23-year-old from Toronto, making her Olympic debut, owns a 50.87 PB, set in June as the third-fastest time in the world this year.
“Honestly, coming in, I felt so overwhelmed with the love and support from my family and friends and I just wanted to come out here and do my best — not only for myself, but for them,” Constantine said.
Miller-Uibo won the heat in 50.50. The Dominican Republic’s Marileidy Paulino posted the best qualifying time at 50.06.
Canada’s Natassha McDonald placed last in her heat, failing to qualify with a time of 53.54 despite a strong start to her race.
Meanwhile, Canadian Liz Gleadle won’t advance to the women’s javelin final after throwing 58.19 metres in qualifying on Tuesday.
Gleadle, a 32-year-old from Vancouver, placed 11th in her group. The top 12 finishers combined between the two groups, or anyone with a distance of 63 metres, moved on to Friday’s final.
No other Canadians were competing.
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