LONDON — For a couple of minutes Monday night, Aaron Brown believed perhaps Canada’s luck at the world track and field championships was turning.
He’d raced to a victory in his 200-metre heat in a season’s best time, three days after he’d been quarantined for the stomach virus that has slashed through the team.
Then the results flashed up on the scoreboard. Beside his name was the dreaded "DQ." Brown was disqualified for a lane violation.
"I hope the tide’s turning," Brown said, just a minute or two before hearing the bad news. "Brandon McBride made the final (in the men’s 800), we’ve got some other people waiting in the wings. Go Canada, we’re going to do this."
Athletics Canada immediately appealed the disqualification, but after video review, the appeal was rejected. Runners are disqualified for stepping on the line.
Four days into the world championships, the Canadian team has lost stars Andre De Grasse and Derek Drouin to injury, and Eric Gillis dropped out 30 kilometres into the marathon, three days after he’d been ill with what is believed to be Norwalk.
The 25-year-old Brown, meanwhile, raced to a season’s best 20.08 seconds — what would have been the second fastest time on the night — and, yet to learn of his disqualification, was all smiles when he went through the media interview area.
Brown, who’d been disqualified for a false start in the 100 at last month’s Canadian championships, was happy he’d recovered from the bug that has flattened athletes from several teams staying at the same central London hotel.
"I was in my room the entire day in the dark like I was a vampire," he said. "It hit at night, couldn’t sleep, aching stomach. Felt like the movie ‘Alien,’ when they breed the alien and the thing’s running around inside. It felt like that. I was holding my stomach the entire night."
Canadian team doctor Paddy McCluskey had said Sunday that seven Canadian team athletes and team members had been ill.
"There have been a number of cases of gastroenteritis reported by team members residing within one of the official team hotels," the local organizing committee said in a statement Monday night. "Those affected have been supported by both team and LOC medical staff."
Brown and De Grasse are the only two Canadian sprinters in history that have recorded both sub-10 second times in the 100 and sub-20 in the 200.
Brown said he’s drawn inspiration from his Canadian teammate, who was a medal threat in both the 100 and 200 in London before tearing his hamstring a week ago in training.
"Why not me? That’s been my slogan for the championship, ‘Why not me?"’ Brown said. "I know I have the talent and the capabilities."
He just needed some better luck.
Sage Watson fared better than Brown on Monday night, advancing to the semifinals in the women’s 400-metre hurdles. Watson was second in her heat in 55.06, the fifth fastest time of the night.
The 23-year-old from Medicine Hat, Alta., who won the NCAA title for the Arizona Wildcats, said there were some things she needs to clean up for the next round — she relaxed on the corner too much, and didn’t come off the hurdles as smooth as she would’ve liked over the final 100 metres.
A few small fixes, and she believes she’s "ready to do something special," she said.
Special, she said, would be making the final and breaking the Canadian record of 54.39, set by Rosey Edeh (now a Canadian television personality) at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Watson’s best time is 54.52, set at the NCAA championships in June.
Canada has four athletes in finals on Tuesday night, including Shawn Barber, the defending champion in pole vault. McBride races the 800, Matt Hughes races the 3,000-metre steeplechase, and Liz Gleadle throws the javelin.