A late add to the men’s 100-metre field, Toronto sprinter Aaron Brown came on strong near the finish line to win his first-ever Diamond League race in the distance on Saturday in England.
Brown ran 10.13 seconds into a slight headwind at Alexander Stadium in a race that began with American Trayvon Bromell and reigning European champion Zharnel Hughes of Great Britain being disqualified for false starts.
Jamaica’s Yohan Blake was second in 10.18 at the Müller Birmingham meet, followed by his cousin Jerome Blake (10.20) and the latter’s Canadian teammate Andre De Grasse (10.24).
Later Saturday, Brown, Brendon Rodney, Blake and De Grasse posted a winning time of 38.31 seconds in the men’s 4×100 relay, a non-Diamond League points race.
WATCH | Brown victorious in 1st men’s 100m of Diamond League season:
Brown, who ran the first leg, told CBC Sports earlier this week he believed they could run under 38 seconds with clean handoffs, its downfall nine months ago in the Olympic final in Tokyo, where Italy crossed the finish line first in 37.70 ahead of Great Britain (37.51).
“It was the difference between bronze and gold,” Brown said over the phone from Birmingham. “We have the leg speed to compete with anybody in the world. It’s a matter of finding our spacing [with the handoff] and being more consistent with it.”
Brown and his relay teammates received great news on Thursday when the International Olympic Committee rubber-stamped their Olympic upgrade to silver during Thursday’s meeting of the executive board. Great Britain, which finished 1-100th of a second behind Italy in the battle for a gold medal last summer in Tokyo, was disqualified following CJ Ujah’s doping violation.
Brown’s previous best showings in a Diamond League 100 were a pair of fifth-place finishes — last July in Stockholm (10.18) on the heels of a third consecutive Canadian title and June 2017 in Oslo, Norway (10.15).
The three-time Olympian opened the Diamond League season a week ago in the 200 — his signature event — in Doha, Qatar, placing fifth after finishing fourth in the 2021 Diamond League Final and sixth in Tokyo.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Edmonton’s Marco Arop rebounded in the men’s 800, getting the better of Frenchman Benjamin Robert in a winning time of 1:45.41. Last week in Doha, the 23-year-old Arop was third in his outdoor season opener in the event, clocking 1:49.51 in a slow race.
WATCH | Arop dominates field in men’s 800m:
Ranked third in the world, Arop is looking for redemption this season after failing to advance to the Olympic in Tokyo. He will also attempt to break Brandon McBride’s Canadian record after coming within 6-100ths of a second in 1:43.26 at Diamond League Monaco last July.
Bryce Hoppel of the United States was third in Birmingham in a season-best 1:46.33 after finishing 15th at his first Olympics last year.
High jumper Django Lovett of Surrey, B.C., took Saturday’s men’s event with a 2.28-metre clearance, defeating Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi (2.25) and Norbert Kobielski (2.25) of Poland.
WATCH | Lovett leaps to victory in Birmingham:
Lovett, who cleared 2.27 for third in Doha, captured his first Canadian title a year ago with a 2.33 personal-best before placing eighth (2.30) in his Olympic debut.
Lindsey Butterworth of North Vancouver, B.C. returned to Diamond League action in the women’s 800 for the first time since her 2018 debut at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore. She was seventh in the field of 10, stopping the clock in 2:01.20.
Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain topped the field in 1:58.63 ahead of Renelle Lamote (1:59.53) of France and Jamaica’s Natoya Goule (2:00.13).
WATCH | Butterworth 7th in women’s 800 after 3-year Diamond League absence:
Butterworth was coming off a 1:59.59 season-best — 9-100ths of a second shy of the 2022 women’s world championship standard — at the Sound Running Track Meet on May 6 in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. Earlier this year indoors, she set personal bests in the 800 (2:01.45) and mile (4:40.00) , and was sixth in the 800 (2:03.21) at the world championships in March.
The difference already this season for the 29-year-old compared to her pre-Olympic competitions a year ago is being part of a deep field at several championship-calibre races.
“[She] did not get the opportunity [last year] in North America to practice the [necessary] tactics and strategies before [her first Games] due to COVID-19 restrictions,” Butterworth’s coach Brit Townsend told CBC Sports recently. “Most of the races she ran, there was maybe one or two people in the race better than her.
“I think Lindsey was disappointed with her [32nd overall] result in Tokyo because she was more ready than ever [to advance from the heats]. I think that fueled her [for this season] because she had run 1:59 twice [in 2021] and had a great pre-Olympic camp.”
The Diamond League season resumes next Saturday at the Prefontaine Classic from Eugene, Ore., beginning at 4 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.