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Marco Arop keeps runners guessing with 800-metre dominance since Olympic letdown

Marco Arop keeps runners guessing with 800-metre dominance since Olympic letdown

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Marco Arop doesn’t have a big story to tell from his Olympic debut. He didn’t lead the field from start to finish and win gold or a medal of any colour. He didn’t even qualify for the men’s 800-metre final, yet he has never been more of a threat to the competition at any time in his brief running career.

Following mixed results in Tokyo — leading wire to wire to win his heat but fading badly after leading a semifinal race and failing to advance — Arop and his coach changed tactics for the Canadian athlete’s return to the Diamond League pro track and field circuit.

A traditional front-runner, Arop was last in the field of eight at the bell lap with 400 metres remaining at the Prefontaine Classic on Aug. 21 but made a move on the outside with 300 metres remaining, took the lead before the straightway and won in one minute 44.51 seconds.

Five days later, Arop grabbed the lead on the first lap in Lausanne, Switzerland, opened about a four-metre advantage at 500 metres and held off Tokyo Olympic champion Emmanuel Korir of Kenya for the victory in 1:44.50.

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“You cannot go to battle with the same weapon and using the same strategies you always use against your opponents because they’ll be able to figure you out and counter strike,” Chris Woods, the head track and field coach at Mississippi State University, told CBC Sports this week. “We always want to continue to add a different way of winning and keep [other runners] guessing.

“What we gained from [the Olympic experience] was a vast amount of knowledge of how to race at this level.”

WATCH | Arop claims 800-metre victory at Prefontaine Classic:

Edmonton’s Arop bests Olympic gold and silver medallists in Diamond League 800m race

Edmonton’s Marco Arop beat Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Emmanuel Kipkurui Korir and silver medallist Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich in the men’s 800-metre race at the World Athletics Diamond League Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore. 4:38

After competing three times over eight days, Arop will skip Friday’s 45th edition of the Allianz Memorial Van Damme meet in Brussels to rest and prepare for the Sept. 9 Diamond League Final in Zurich.

Kate Van Buskirk is scheduled as the lone Canadian representative in Brussels as a pacer of the women’s 5,000 metres at 2:30 p.m. ET, but earlier this week had her luggage stolen on a train ride to Belgium from France.

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CBC Sports is providing live stream coverage of Friday’s event starting at 2 p.m. ET.

Andrea Seccafien of Guelph, Ont., who placed top 15 in the 5,000 and 10,000 in Tokyo, was on the initial list to join Van Buskirk as a pacer but has since called it a season.

“My legs have had enough,” the 31-year-old, who now lives in Melbourne, Australia, wrote Thursday in an Instagram post. “I’ve been on the road for five months and have probably made a trip around the world [in total mileage].”

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Meanwhile, Arop also placed third last week at the Meeting de Paris, making it five podium finishes in as many Diamond League events this season, his sixth as a serious runner.

WATCH | Arop reaches podium for 3rd time in 8 days:

Edmonton’s Arop finishes 3rd as Kenyans go 1-2 in men’s 800m race

Edmonton’s Marco Arop finished in third place as Kenyans Wyclife Kinyamal and Olympic silver medallist Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich finishes first and second in the men’s 800-metre race at the Diamond League meet in Paris. 7:00

With the understanding he can win a race running up front or from behind, the world’s No. 3-ranked men’s 800 runner will gain added confidence by committing to try something different in a race, Woods noted, adding the 22-year-old can now focus on racing and not the end result.

In Paris, Arop made a move in the back stretch to take the lead but admitted to letting up and allowing Kenya’s Wyclife Kinyamal pass him in the final 100 metres for the victory, with reigning Olympic silver medallist Ferguson Rotich following in second.

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“Taking the lead and easing up was my biggest mistake. I think it was a combination of fatigue and poor racing tactics,” said the Sudan-born Arop, who was raised in Edmonton. “It would have been better to keep pushing and allow the momentum to carry me [across the finish line].”

‘I still need work on my confidence’

Still, the 2019 Pan Am champion has performed consistently in 2021, ranging from a season-best 1:43.26 – only 6-100ths of a second shy of Brandon McBride’s Canadian record – to mostly 1:44-high and a season-worst 1:45.26.

“I still believe I’m capable of running faster,” said Arop. “If I’m feeling good on the day, I’d like to go for it and win from the front. I’m better at allowing the races to come to me. However, I still need work on my confidence and ability to run through traffic.”

For Arop’s first Diamond League Final, Woods said the race plan would be determined by data the coach has collected on the competition in recent weeks.

“There’s always the option of calling an audible,” said Woods, Arop’s coach from his days racing at MSU and since turning pro in December 2019. “Marco knows how his body feels and that’ll dictate how we run the race. If he sees or feels something that would be counter-productive to our plan, he has the right to change something.

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“I believe he could’ve been a medallist in the Olympics and I believe he can win a Diamond League [Trophy].”

Other notable races in Brussels

Men’s 100 metres

A talented field for the 2:23 p.m. ET race features Fred Kerley, the Olympic silver medallist from Tokyo, and fellow American Trayvon Bromell, who didn’t qualify for the Olympic final but boasts a 2021 world-leading time of 9.77 seconds.

Kerley clocked a wind-aided 9.78 to finish second at Prefontaine Classic on Aug. 21 after running a 9.84 personal best in the Tokyo final. Bromell was fourth at Prefontaine (9.86) and won his first and only Diamond League race this season on July 13 in Gateshead, England.

Women’s 200

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American track star Sha’Carri Richardson will make her return in Brussels after a disappointing last-place finish in the 100 (9th, 11.14 seconds) at the Prefontaine Classic.

The 21-year-old was considered an Olympic medal favourite in July before accepting a 30-day suspension for a positive marijuana test in late June. Richardson’s ban ended July 27, meaning she was eligible to compete in the women’s relays, but USA Track and Field did not select her to its Olympic roster.

Friday’s race at 3:04 p.m. ET also includes Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson, who earned three medals in Tokyo, and Olympic 200 silver medallist Christine Mboma of Namibia.

WATCH | Bring It In panel discusses Richardson’s suspension:

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Sha’Carri Richardson’s positive cannabis test

Morgan Campbell is joined by Dave Zirin and Meghan McPeak to discuss Sha’Carri Richardson’s positive cannabis test and her subsequent one month suspension from competition. 11:17



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