Rio 2016: 65 track & field athletes named to Team Canada
With 25 days to go until the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Athletics Canada revealed the 65 athletes that will represent our country in track and field. It is the largest track and field team Canada has ever sent to the Olympics.
Nine of the athletes are from Alberta. They are:
- Maria Bernard from Calgary, who will compete in 3,000 metre steeplechase
- Mathieu Bilodeau from Calgary, who will compete in 50 kilometre race walk
- Kendra Clarke from Edmonton, who will compete in 400 metre and 4×400 metre relay
- Akeem Haynes from Calgary, who will complete in 100 metre and 4×100 metre relay
- Carline Muir from Edmonton, who will complete in 400 metre and 4×400 metre relay
- Jessica O’Connell from Calgary, who will complete in 5,000 metre
- Heather Steacy from Lethbridge, who will complete in hammer throw
- Sage Watson from Medicine Hat, who will complete in 400 metre hurdles, 4×400 metre relay
- Angela Whyte from Edmonton, who will compete in 100 metre hurdles
Some of the athletes earned their place on the team at the 2016 Canadian Track and Field Championships and Olympic Trials, which were held at Edmonton’s Foote Field this past weekend.
“The team is comprised of veterans who have already experienced international success, and up-and-coming athletes who are ready to take the next step,” Athletics Canada head coach Peter Eriksson said. Athletics Canada is the national governing body for track and field, cross country and road running.
Four years removed from a young squad who captured one medal at the London Olympics — Derek Drouin’s bronze in high jump — the team is that much older and better, and poised for a parade to the podium in Brazil.
“I think the switch kind of happened in London, in 2012 we saw the torch being passed from some of the older, more experienced athletes, to all of us,” said Brianne Theisen-Eaton, a world silver medallist in the heptathlon.
“Derek won our only medal, and for me at least, it was: what are you doing here if you’re just participating? Why aren’t you trying to win a medal? And that has lit a fire in a lot of us to be like, you know what? We can be contenders on this stage for medals, not just there to experience it.”
The Canadian team, introduced in a ceremony Monday at City Hall, now has embarrassment of riches virtually across the board. Where once Canada dominated only in men’s sprints or women’s hurdles, this team has contenders in virtually ever discipline from the 100 metres in world bronze medallist Andre De Grasse, to the multi-events in Theisen-Eaton and Damian Warner, the world decathlon silver medallist.
“Seeing Derek win that medal in 2012, you couldn’t help but feed off that, and I think it’s making everybody pick up their game,” said Warner, who was ranked 18th going into London, and finished fifth. “(Drouin’s bronze) showed me it was possible.
“Now people are a lot older and ready to compete, and it’s just exciting to be a part of this team.”
Among other notable members: Shawn Barber, the reigning world champion in the pole vault, and race walker Ben Thorne, a world bronze medallist.
The athletes can take comfort in the depth of the team — there’s enough of them to share the spotlight, and the pressure that comes with it.
De Grasse, a 21-year-old from Markham, Ont., will feel the spotlight more than most in his first Olympic appearance, as a contender in track and field’s marquee event. He’s not worried.
“I’m out there having fun,” De Grasse said. “My family, my supporters they do a great job of keeping the pressure off of me, so I’m going to go out there and have fun and don’t think about it too much.
“For me, this is my first Games, so I’m excited to be here. Obviously I want to get on the podium, so I’m going to do my best.”
Canada expects to send about 315 Canadian athletes to the Summer Games, which runs from August 5 to 21.
The full list of athletes can be found on Team Canada’s website.
With files from Karen Bartko, Global News.
© 2016 The Canadian Press