Bishop races to fourth Canadian 800 title, McBride wins men’s 800

Melissa Bishop, of Eganville, Ont., blows a kiss to the crowd as she does a victory lap after winning gold in the women's 800-metre race at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Ottawa, Saturday, July 8 2017. (Fred Chartrand/CP)

OTTAWA — Melissa Bishop ran hard from the gun, and by 400 metres she’d opened a gap on the field that stretched back a good 10 metres. By the finish line it was 20.

The world silver medallist cruised to her fourth national 800-metre title Saturday, officially booking her spot in next month’s world championships in a foregone conclusion.

The 28-year-old from Eganville, Ont., an hour-and-a-half up the road from Ottawa, crossed in two minutes 0.26 seconds, and then at the bequest of meet organizers, did a victory lap for the Ottawa fans including a large cheering section of fans in T-shirts bearing her name.

"It’s nice to run at home," Bishop said. "I haven’t been home in a long time to run, and to have my family and my friends here, they’ve been beside me through this entire career, even before I was an Olympian… so it means a lot."

The field will be far more fierce at next month’s worlds in London, where she hopes to climb the podium once again in one of the sport’s more controversial events. Saturday’s race came on the heels of a scientific paper that could change the landscape of the women’s 800.

The study, funded by the IAAF and World Anti-Doping Agency and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that women who produce higher-than-normal amounts of testosterone have up to a 4.5 per cent advantage over their competition on the track. The International Association of Athletics Federation plans to use the study in its appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which could potentially sideline Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya and others.

"I guess I’m going to let the courts handle it," Bishop said. "We’ve just got to do our jobs and continue competing, and let the big guys take care of it, we don’t really have any control over it, so we’ll see what comes out."

The appeal will not affect this year’s world championships, where Semenya will be a favourite to win a third 800 title.

Bishop was asked: Does the study give her hope?

"I can’t go there yet," she said. "I have to compete at worlds, the world’s not changing for world championships, so I still have to compete, so we’ll be there competing at our best."

On the heels of her world silver in 2015 in Beijing, Bishop was devastated by her fourth-place finish with what she called a "textbook perfect race" last summer in Rio.

"I want to be on the podium all the time now, because it’s addicting to be on the top of your game," she said. "It’s hard to describe what that’s like but to work for so many years and finally see a performance come through, it’s like an addiction. You want to keep going, you want more."

She believes the podium is within reach in London.

"I think with prime fitness, prime mental abilities and be great on the day, it’s anybody’s game," she said.

Brandon McBride of Windsor, Ont., won the men’s 800 in 1:45.23, booking his ticket to London.

Johnathan Cabral of Peribonka, Que., won a collision-filled 110-metre hurdles race that saw the three medallists separated by less than a tenth of a second. Cabral leaned and fell hard at the line, finishing in 13.61 seconds. He had to be helped off the track.

Sekou Kaba of Ottawa was second in 13.61, while decathlete Damian Warner was third in 13.69.

Warner, who won Olympic bronze last summer in Rio, opted to compete in just the hurdles and long jump — which he won Friday night — in Ottawa in preparation for the worlds, where he has a shot at gold.

His hurdles race wasn’t pretty, nor the perfect preparation he had in mind. The race was a collision course, set against the soundtrack of smashing hurdles. Two hurdlers fell at the finish line.

"The start was stressful because they held us (in the set position) for a really long time, and there was a lot of twitching, as soon as the gun went I felt like I was just left behind, just messy after that," Damian said.

"It’s a little crazy, because you can hear all the hurdles crashing. I think Hurdles 7 and 8 I hit really hard, there was no chance I was going over it so almost went through it. And that’s never a good thing."

Warner holds the world’s best hurdles time as part of a decathlon of 13.44 seconds. He joked good-naturedly after Saturday’s mess of a race.

"I think I almost broke every single hurdle. (But) if I just clean it up a little bit, the time will be a little bit faster… I always try to take a positive. I think the hurdle is broken right there, so something good came out of this," he laughed.

Three-time Olympian Angela Whyte of Edmonton won the women’s 100 hurdles, narrowly missing the qualifying standard for London. She needed 12.98 and crossed in 13.02.

Alysha Newman of London, Ont., rubber-stamped her spot on the team in the women’s pole vault, clearing 4.65 metres for the victory. Newman missed on three attempts at 4.75, what would have bettered her Canadian record of 4.71.

In Saturday’s morning session, Aaron Brown was the fastest qualifier in the 200-metre semifinals to set up what should be a thrilling final Sunday.

The 25-year-old from Brampton, Ont., who was disqualified for a false start in the 100 semis the previous night, crossed in 20.31 seconds.

Three-time Olympic medallist Andre De Grasse, who won his third 100 title Friday night, coasted to an easy 20.44 to win his semifinal. Brendon Rodney of Brampton, Ont., won his semi in 20.45.

De Grasse is keen to claim the 200-metre title after losing to Rodney last year in Edmonton.

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