Canada’s Andre De Grasse finishes sixth in men’s 200m at world championships

From left: Zharnel Hughes, of Great Britain, Erriyon Knighton, of the United States, and Andre De Grasse, of Canada, race to the finish in the Men's 200-meters semifinal during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (Martin Meissner/AP)

Andre De Grasse is keeping his head high despite leaving this year’s World Athletics Championships without any hardware.

De Grasse struggled to a sixth-place finish in the men’s 200-metre final, and Canada will finish without a sprinting medal at the worlds.

“I made the final through all of this challenging season,” he said. “I shouldn’t have been here, to be honest. I shouldn’t have been in the final just the way my season was going.”

De Grasse, who had reached the podium at every Olympics and world championships he competed in heading into Budapest, finished with a time of 20.14 seconds.

The 28-year-old from Markham, Ont., hasn’t performed his best this year after a 2022 season riddled with injury.

“Mentally I know I’m there, so physically I just have to keep up,” he said. “Trying to get that training in, staying consistent, being healthy when it counts — those are all things I need to work on going into next year.”

Noah Lyles of the United States was first in 19.52 seconds, followed by fellow American Erriyon Knighton (19.75) and Letslie Tebogo of Botswana (19.81).

Earlier, Canada’s 4×100 relay team, minus De Grasse, failed to advance out of the heats and will not defend the title it won in 2022.

The Canadian team, consisting of Toronto’s Aaron Brown and Brendon Rodney, Jerome Blake of Kelowna, B.C., and Bolade Ajomale of Richmond Hill, Ont., finished sixth in the second heat and 10th overall with a time of 38.25 seconds.

The top three teams from the two heats and the next two fastest teams qualified for Saturday’s final.

“We’re the defending champions, so you can only imagine that not even getting to the final is pretty defeating and upsetting,” said Ajomale. “We felt pretty good honestly, just didn’t get there as fast as we wanted to.”

De Grasse was absent due to the 200-metre final taking place later the same evening.

De Grasse, Brown, Blake and Rodney set a Canadian record with a time of 37.48 seconds en route to topping the podium at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore.

The same four sprinters had collected bronze medals at the Tokyo Olympics a year before, a medal that was upgraded to silver in May 2022 due to a doping violation by British team member CJ Ujah.

Things are looking more promising in the decathlon, where 2022 world silver medallist Pierce LePage and reigning Olympic champion Damian Warner were second and third, respectively, after the first five events.

LePage trails Leo Neugebauer of Germany by just 30 points. Warner, meanwhile, is 62 points off the leader.

“Right now there’s a lot of decathletes competing really, really well, and Leo and Pierce and myself are right at the top,” said Warner. “It’s gonna be about who executes tomorrow, and I’m up for the challenge.”

The final five decathlon events are scheduled for Saturday.

Toronto’s Jazz Shukla didn’t qualify for the women’s 800-metre final, coming seventh in her semifinal heat with a personal best of two minutes 0.23 seconds.

Shukla says competing in her first worlds was a learning experience. “It was my second time doing rounds this year after nationals, and what I’ve learned is I need to be a little more rounds ready with the legs,” she said. “That’s a good learning experience to bring into next year.”

Canada hasn’t managed to win a medal on the track at this year’s world championships.

Meanwhile, it has been baking in Budapest, with temperatures pushing 34 Celsius and humidity levels that make it feel hotter, all of which could be a glimpse of things to come at next year’s Paris Olympics and beyond.

Athletes are dealing with weather conditions in unique ways to get them swiftly across the finish line. Some have worn ice vests before races and in training. Others have prepared by logging time in saunas to help acclimate to sweltering conditions. Still, others are gulping slushies to cool their inner core. Or just using ice bags.

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