Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed wins bronze in 5,000 metres at worlds

Mohammed Ahmed of Canada won bronze at the men's 5000-metre final at the World Athletics Championships. (Petr David Josek/AP)

DOHA, Qatar — Mohammed Ahmed has made Canadian history at the world track and field championships.

The 28-year-old Ahmed won a bronze medal in the men’s 5,000 metres on Monday, becoming the first Canadian to hit the podium in a distance event (1,500, 5,000, 10,000 and steeplechase) in world championships history.

Ahmed, from St. Catharines, Ont., finished in 13 minutes 1.11 seconds.

Ethiopians Muktar Edris (12:58.85) — the defending world champion — and Selemon Barega (12:59.70) were first and second, respectively, in front of their home crowd.

Ahmed dropped to fifth on the final lap after going in front with two laps to go. But he made a charge on the backstrech, edging Ethiopia’s Telahun Haille Bekele (13:02.29) for bronze.

"I told myself ‘I am not going to be denied,"’ said Ahmed. "I gave it everything I could. Third is as good as first when it’s your first time. I’m just really happy about that."

Ahmed said he wanted to move in front during the race.

"I said to myself, ‘Don’t let this opportunity get away from you,"’ he said. "I stuck to the plan, get to the front at some point and be the driver, not the passenger."

Justyn Knight of Toronto was 10th in 13:26.63.

Ahmed was fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 5,000.

Earlier this year, he became the first Canadian to dip under the 13-minute mark, slicing three seconds off his own Canadian record to run 12:58.16 at the Golden Gala in Rome.

Ahmed was born in Somalia and moved to St. Catharines with his family at age 11.

He has overcome adversity en route to the world podium.

In 2017, Ahmed, who is Muslim, was flagged at security and his flight from the Portland airport left without him, grounding any chance he had of racing in the Diamond League final in Switzerland.

Somalia is one of the countries on the Trump administration’s travel ban list. The name "Mohammed," or various versions of it, is also believed to be the most common name in the world.

"I’ve always had to deal with people thinking I’m some sort of terrorist or something," Ahmed said in 2017. "It’s tough, especially being young and you know you didn’t do anything wrong. I’ve tried to be as patient as I could, but you’re going to come across people who push buttons that they really shouldn’t be pushing."

Ahmed became the third Canadian medallist at the 2019 worlds.

Andre De Grasse of Markham, Ont., won bronze in the men’s 100 metres on Saturday before Evan Dunfee of Richmond, B.C., took third in the men’s 50-kilometre race walk.

Canada did not win a medal at the most recent worlds in 2017 in London.

Edris drew some of the biggest cheers of the meet so far in the 5,000. The crowds in Doha have been sparse, but the flag-waving contingent from Ethiopia has filled two full sections on nights their runners are going.

This race was considered wide open because two of the top at the distance, Yomif Kejelcha and Joshua Cheptegei, were not in the field to focus on the 10,000.

Edris brought Ethiopia, which has the loudest fan contingent in Doha, its first gold medal of the championships.

De Grasse, meanwhile, will have a shot at another medal on Tuesday. He won the last of three semifinals in the 200 metres on Monday to qualify for the final.

De Grasse, who won a bronze medal on Saturday in the 100 metres, finished in 20.08 seconds in the 200 for the fifth-fastest semifinal time.

Toronto’s Aaron Brown also advanced to the final. He finished third in the first semi and seventh overall in 20.20 seconds.

The top two in each semi and the next two fastest runners advanced to Tuesday’s final.

Toronto’s Brandon Rodney failed to qualify, coming 13th overall in 20.34 seconds.

The event lost one of its elite competitors when American Chris Coleman withdrew from Sunday’s preliminaries.

Coleman told The Associated Press that he needed a break after sprinting to victory in Saturday’s 100-metre final.

De Grasse, from Markham, Ont., won his third career world championship medal in the 100. He has rejoined the world’s sprinting elite after a frustrating stretch of two lost seasons to hamstring injuries.

De Grasse’s troubles began at the 2017 world championships in London, where his hurt hamstring forced him to withdraw from the 100- and 200-metre events. De Grasse, 24, was considered a medal contender in both events — perhaps even a threat to beat Jamaican legend Usain Bolt — after a highly successful three-medal performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

In other action on Monday, Genevieve Lalonde of Moncton, N.B., finished 14th in the women’s, 3,000-metre steeplechase final.

Toronto’s Crystal Emmanuel advanced to the women’s 200-metre semifinals by finishing 19th overall in heats.

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