He is the Canadian record holder and the fastest 5,000-meter runner of all time in North America. And now he’s an Olympic medalist.
Moh Ahmed of St. Catharines, Ont., Rushed to the finish line to win the silver medal in Tokyo on Friday, posting a time of 12 minutes 58.61 seconds on a hot and humid evening at the Olympic Stadium.
“Relieved, just relieved,” said the first Canadian Olympic champion in the distance after the race. “These last 100 meters, I would like to be a little closer to the challenge [new Olympic champion Joshua] Cheptegei for gold. But to come out here after five years of waiting, I’m thrilled and thrilled. “
Ahmed moved about 500 meters from the finish line, closed the gap to the leading pack on the turn and began his pursuit for a podium at the top of the straight.
WATCH | Ahmed runs 12: 58.61 for the Olympic silver medal:
He passed Kenyan Nicholas Kimeli and American Paul Chelimo on the inside before crossing the line behind Cheptegei, the Uganda world record holder. The 2019 world champion was 46 hundredths of a second ahead of Ahmed while Chelimo, who won Olympic silver five years ago in Rio, finished third with a season record of 12: 59.05 after coming close. stumble in the last 400 meters.
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Torontonian Justyn Knight was seventh in his Olympic debut, stopping the clock in 13: 04.38, more than 22 seconds faster than his 10th place at the world championships two years ago in Doha, Qatar.
Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, also of Toronto, led early in the women’s 1,500m final and placed third for a brief period before placing fifth in 3: 58.93 in her first Olympics.
Later Friday, Andre De Grasse, Aaron Brown, Brendon Rodney and Jerome Blake finished the 100 relay in 37.70 seconds for bronze, Canada’s 21st medal in Tokyo. Italy took the podium (37.50) followed by Great Britain (37.51).
When De Grasse crossed the finish line to complete his anchoring stage, the 26-year-old from Markham, Ont., Earned his sixth Olympic medal and became the nation’s most decorated track athlete.
A week ago, Ahmed appeared to be heading for his first Olympic medal, but passed out before the start and crossed the finish line sixth in the 10,000 men, tying his result at the 2019 world championships.
I envisioned [the race] much differently and getting through it with a medal tells me I’m tough, that I can [battle] and always perform at the highest level.– Canadian Olympic silver medalist Moh Ahmed
The 30-year-old passed eventual gold medalist Selemon Barega of Ethiopia for the lead in the final two rounds, but Barega was back in the lead with 400 yards left on the bell. With his eyes bulging and gritting his teeth, Ahmed put all his energy into the final few meters but couldn’t keep pace and clocked a time of 27: 47.76, not far from his national record of 26: 59.35 from the world championships.
Slow pace expected
“To come back, especially after the disappointment of [last week’s] 10,000, to come back to the same thing that happened in Rio [at the 2016 Olympics] – have a disappointing 10,000 and try to collect myself for the [5,000] – it was tough, ”said Ahmed, who trains with the Bowerman Track Club in Portland, Ore.
“I said to my brother, ‘I can’t believe I’m going through this again. I imagined [Friday’s race] very differently and going through it with a medal just tells me that I am tough, that I can continue to fight these tough and difficult battles and still perform at the highest level. “
WATCH | Ahmed: “I am delighted and delighted” to reach the Olympic podium:
Ahmed, who set a Canadian record of 12: 47.20 in an intra-team meet on July 10, 2020, expected a slow pace on Friday and planned to sit at the back of the field before making a step in an attempt to overtake its 15 competitors. .
“The Ugandans [Jacob Kiplimo and Cheptegei] came out ahead and played team tactics and they almost came away with two medals, ”he said. Hold on, be still. ‘”
Ahmed, who started track running at the age of 13, was inspired to see track athletes on television at the 2004 Athens Olympics, as well as Canadian sprint kayaker Adam van Koeverden, who won gold and bronze medals at these Games.
Childhood dream of being an Olympian
“Watching all these races, I got goosebumps,” Ahmed recalled last November in an interview with CBC Sports. “In my 8th grade yearbook I wrote ‘Olympian’ as a future occupation. I didn’t know what that meant, but it was the fact that I was inspired and held on to it. [dream]. “
Ahmed realized his Olympic dream in 2012 in London and four years later in Rio, he finished fourth in the 5000m.
Meanwhile, the first-time Olympian Knight took the lead on Friday with former NCAA rival Grant Fisher of the United States, staying close before Kiplimo, who won bronze in the 10,000 plus early at these Games, take control of the 1,000-meter. The Canadian climbed to fifth place, but didn’t have a late kick to threaten the leading group with just his third 5,000 of the season.
On June 10, Ahmed and Knight became the two fastest 5,000 North American runners of all time when they crossed the finish line in 12: 50.12 and 12: 51.93, respectively, in the Golden Gala Diamond League meeting in Florence, Italy.
Knight, 25, was disappointed with his performance at the 2019 world championships, although his success in qualifying for the event left him tired, and immediately improved his nutrition and trained with marathoners, making tempo runs – running at a pace you can maintain for about 60 minutes – and hill workouts.
“The important thing to take away [from the world final] never fell from the top, ”he told CBC Sports in June from his apartment in Charlottesville, Va., where he lives and trains with the Reebok Boston Track Club. “I knew I could do better. You can’t be comfortable being mediocre. I am much stronger as I approach the [Olympics], I have matured a lot mentally and my self-confidence is much higher than two years ago. “
Missed the ’16 Olympic standard by 1.36 seconds
After deciding not to race at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Knight opened his 2021 campaign indoors with a world record and personal best time of 8: 13.92 in a race of two miles in New York, two weeks before an effortless 3: 36.62 in the 1,500 away in the Texas Qualifier, he extended his winning streak to five until January 25, 2020 in New York.
Although Knight did not reach the podium on Friday, he has come a long way since missing the 2016 Olympic standard by 1.36 seconds as a track and field and cross country runner from 19 years at Syracuse University.
On the women’s side, DeBues-Stafford put in an effort of 3: 58.28 in qualifying for Wednesday’s Olympic final and has now fallen under four minutes four times in her career after becoming the first Canadian to do it on August 29, 2019, in the Diamond League Final.
“I was in a great position the whole time [and] put me in [medal contention]. I did all I could, “DeBues-Stafford told CBC Sports, catching his breath.” With one lap to go, I was like, ‘Oh, I feel good and [the podium finishers] I just found another equipment [with 250 metres left] and the gap opened instantly. I didn’t have any other equipment, so it’s overwhelming. “
WATCH | DeBues-Stafford: “These races were almost a spiritual experience for me”
In Friday’s race, the 25-year-old lost her grip on third place when Laura Muir, her former training partner in Scotland, passed her and then caught up with 2020 Olympic 5000m champion Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands to win silver in a national record 3: 54.50 for Great Britain.
“She is such a talented runner and I have admired her for many years,” DeBues-Stafford said of Muir. “I saw how hard she works when I [lived and trained] in Glasgow. At that level, you have to stay consistent like Laura, and one of these days it will bring in a world medal. “
Faith Kipyegon of Kenya successfully defended her Olympic 1,500m title in 3:53, breaking the Games record for Romanian Paula Iven in 3: 53.96 of 1988.
I could barely walk, let alone run, without limping. I felt so weak and helpless in these races.– Canadian record holder Gabriela DeBues-Stafford on her health in early 2020
Hassan took bronze in 3: 55.86 but will have less than 24 hours to recover for the 10,000 final on Saturday at 6:45 am ET, a race also featuring Canadian record holder Andrea Seccafien.
Return to DeBues-Stafford
In early 2020, DeBues-Stafford wondered if she would ever regain the form of 2019 which led to eight national records and 11 personal best times.
Fresh out of a high-altitude training camp in South Africa, the Canadian runner set indoor marks in the 1,500 and women’s mile on February 8 at the Millrose Games in New York City, but was “emotionally exhausted and exhausted. physically broken ”after a long year of traveling.
“I could barely walk, let alone run, without a limp,” DeBues-Stafford told CBC Sports a few months later. “I felt so weak and helpless in these races [and it] really took a toll on my psyche. “
The questioning of her ability to bounce back on the track only fueled DeBues-Stafford’s anxiety, but she was back to her “old self” earlier this year. She opened her 1500 season away from home with a victory that gave her confidence at the Texas Qualifier in Austin and didn’t stop.
On May 29, DeBues-Stafford clocked 1: 58.70 in the 800 to become the first Canadian to break two minutes in the event, four minutes in the 1500 and 15 minutes in the 5000 – a performance marked by a pair of 1500 threatening. the four-minute barrier.
“The biggest takeaway was the relief to feel strong and in control again in a race,” she said of the race in Texas.
Months later, the sentiment spread to Tokyo, where DeBues-Stafford said she felt comfortable, gentle, confident and “in the shape of my life.”
WATCH | CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo presents fun facts about the Canadian Track and Field Team:
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