Canada's Arop runs fastest time of 800 heats to clinch berth in world semifinals

Marco Arop, of Canada, wins during a heat in the men's 800-meter run at the World Athletics Championships on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. (Ashley Landis/AP)

Marco Arop watched in shock as Canadian teammate Brandon McBride crashed in his rough-and-tumble heat of the 800 metres.

Running minutes later, Arop's biggest concern was just to stay on his feet.

The 23-year-old from Edmonton recorded the fastest time of the 800 heats at the world track and field championships on Wednesday — despite running much of the race out in Lane 2.

"I was just trying to avoid a collision," Arop said. "I saw Brandon in the previous heat, and I was just trying to avoid that at all costs. Even if I had to run the extra distance it was worth it."

According to the Canadian team's sport physiologist Trent Stellingwerff, Arop ran an extra 10 to 14 metres in his race, which equates to an extra 1.2 to 1.5 seconds.

"Dude is in unreal shape to run a 1:44 basically in Lane 2, controlling from the front off the back end," Stellingwerff said.

Arop ran one minute 44.56 seconds. Mexico's Jesus Tonatiu Lopez was second (1:44.67), while Ireland's Mark English was third (1:44.76).

McBride, the Canadian record-holder from Windsor, Ont., went down during some jostling on the backstretch of the first lap of his heat. He looked up at the fading field before getting back on his feet and finishing. But he never made up the 50-metre gap on the rest of the field. 

The Canadian team submitted an appeal, but it was denied.

"Honestly, it all happened so fast, a lot of pushing, a lot of shoving," said McBride, who thought he might have got pushed or tripped over someone's leg.

When the 28-year-old — who said he was still "in shock" moments after the race — fell, his first thoughts were to get up and finish, in case there was a chance at a successful appeal. 

"I can't really tell you how I'm feeling, but I'm proud of my journey, nonetheless," he said. "It's just unfortunate because I really would like an opportunity to showcase my fitness. Let's just hope I get an opportunity to do that."

Unfortunately he won't.

Arop, who has a quick turnaround — the semifinals are Thursday — said McBride's fall was hard to watch.

"You never want to see someone go down and especially a teammate," he said. "I know how hard he's worked, and the best I could do is just go out and try not to duplicate it, avoid it at all costs."

Arop has become one of the world's most consistent 800 runners on the Diamond League circuit, winning the Birmingham, England stop earlier this season.

The 2019 Pan American Games champion didn't qualify for the Olympic final last summer in Tokyo however, fading badly in his semifinal.

The world No. 1-ranked Max Burgin of Great Britain withdrew moments before Wednesday's heats.

Elizabeth Gleadle of Vancouver, an 11-time national champion, qualified for the women's javelin final, with a throw of 60.38 metres, seventh best in qualifying.

Haruka Kitaguchi of Japan was the top qualifier (64.32).

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