De Grasse, Arop lead Canada’s push for Olympic relay spots

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Six-time Olympic track medallist Andre De Grasse and 800-metre world champion Marco Arop are both set to run for Canada at the World Athletics Relays this Saturday and Sunday in the Bahamas, where most of the entries for the Paris Olympic 4x100m and 4x400m events will be decided.

Here’s how it works:

There are five track relay events on the Olympic program — the men’s and women’s 4×100 and 4×400 and the mixed 4×400. Sixteen countries compete in each Olympic event. Fourteen of the spots are up for grabs at the World Athletics Relays.

Each competition this weekend in the Bahamas includes up to 32 teams and consists of three rounds. On Saturday night, the top two teams in each of the four heats for every relay clinch an Olympic berth and a place in Sunday night’s eight-team final.

Those that do not advance to the final get a second chance to qualify for the Olympics on Sunday. In this repechage round, the top two in each of the three heats get an Olympic spot. After that, the eight Saturday qualifiers race each other in the final for prize money and preferred lane assignments in Paris.

WATCH | De Grasse, Brown on hand for Canada at World Athletics Relays:

World Athletics Relays: Will the stars align for Team Canada? | Athletics North

Relay stars like Andre De Grasse and Aaron Brown will be on hand for Canada at the World Athletics Relays in Bahamas May 4-5, but outside of the big names is Canada lacking depth? Host Devin Heroux and Certified Track Nerd Morgan Campbell get into on this episode of Athletics North.

The final two spots in each Olympic relay will be determined by world rankings on June 30.

Here’s a look at the top two events for Canadians to watch:

Men’s 4×100

De Grasse is expected to anchor the same lineup he led to a stunning gold medal at the 2022 world championships in Oregon and a silver at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo (Canada finished third in the Olympic final but was upgraded after a British athlete flunked a doping test).

The Canadian team failed to qualify for the final at last year’s world championships in Budapest after a tired De Grasse elected to skip the preliminary round to rest his legs for the 200m final. Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake and Brendon Rodney had Canada in position to advance before Bolade Ajomale took the baton. The replacement anchor was quickly overtaken by several opponents and the Canadians finished sixth in their heat, ending their hopes of a repeat.

With De Grasse back in the fold this weekend, Canada should earn a shot at its third consecutive Olympic medal this summer in Paris. De Grasse, Brown and Rodney were part of the squad that took bronze in 2016 in Rio before Blake joined them for the silver in Tokyo.

Men’s 4×400

Canada has not qualified for the Olympics in this event since the 1992 Games in Barcelona. Arop is aiming to fix that. The reigning 800m world champion helped his country secure the top-32 ranking necessary to qualify for the World Athletics Relays by joining Brown (a 100 and 200 specialist), Ibrahim Ayorinde and Callum Robinson for a solid performance at the Florida Relays in March.

Brown is not slated to compete in the 4×400 this weekend as he’ll be busy with the 4×100. But the team could get a boost from Christopher Morales-Williams, the University of Georgia star who ran the fastest indoor 400m time in history back in February before capturing the NCAA championship in the same event.

Other Canadian teams

Arop is also on the Canadian roster for the mixed 4×400. This event joined the Olympic program in 2021 as part of the IOC’s push for gender parity, but Canada did not qualify. Nor did it have a team at the last two world championships.

Canada will also compete this weekend in the women’s 4×100 and 4×400. The 4×100 team did not qualify for the 2021 Olympics or last year’s world championships. But the 4×400 squad has consistently been on the cusp of the podium, placing fourth at the Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 and ’23 worlds.

International stars to watch

Triple sprint world title holder Noah Lyles of the United States is slated to race the 4×100 alongside Olympic 200m silver medallist Kenny Bednarek. Women’s 100m world champ Sha’Carri Richardson is not competing for the U.S. after helping the 4×100 squad win gold at the worlds, but her teammate Gabby Thomas (the world 200m silver medallist) is.

Olympic men’s 100m champion Marcell Jacobs is set to race for Italy after helping the country win its first Olympic 4x100m title in Tokyo. So is Filippo Tortu, whose stunning anchor leg delivered the gold.

The crowd favourite could be the Bahamas’ Steven Gardiner, who won 400m gold in Tokyo. He’s on the host country’s roster for both the men’s and mixed 400m relays.

How to watch

The entire World Athletics Relays will be streamed live on, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem on Saturday and Sunday from 7-10:30 p.m. ET. For specific race times, here’s the full schedule of events.

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