OTTAWA — Seventeen years after she last raced at the Olympics, distance runner Malindi Elmore has earned a spot on Canada's team for Tokyo, while Cam Levins will race at the Games after dipping under the qualifying mark with just a week to spare.
The two Canadian record-holders in the marathon highlighted Athletics Canada's team of long-distance runners and race walkers nominated on Friday.
Nine Canadian marathoners had achieved the qualifying criteria in the marathon, but each country is allowed only three men and three women, leading to speculation about the squad in recent weeks, and posing a good problem for Athletics Canada with the depth of talent.
"Over the past few years, Canadian middle- and long-distance runners have accomplished great things on the track and on the road," Athletics Canada's head coach Glenroy Gilbert said in a statement. "In Tokyo, we'll see a new generation of marathoners who have broken Canadian records, established impressive personal bests on-demand in less-than-ideal conditions and made a name for themselves in the gruelling 42.195-kilometre event.
"We are excited to see what this group can do in Sapporo against the greatest athletes in the world, as they deserve to be there."
World bronze medallist Evan Dunfee tops the race-walk team, while Mohammed Ahmed and Andrea Secdafien earned spots in the 10,000 metres.
The rest of Canada's track and field team will be announced at a later date.
Dunfee had already clinched his spot on the team based on his bronze at the 2019 world championships, while Dayna Pidhoresky and Trevor Hofbauer had previously earned automatic berths after winning the women's and men's Canadian marathon titles.
Elmore is a terrific comeback story. The Kelowna, B.C., native ran the 1,500 at the 2004 Athens Olympics missing the semifinals by one spot, then retired from track in 2012 and became a world-class Ironman triathlete. Moving down to the marathon in 2019 — as a mom of two, she said it requires less training time than the Ironman — she broke the Canadian marathon record in January 2020.
Natasha Wodak, who's raced at three world championships in the 10,000 metres, is the third Canadian woman on the marathon team.
Levins, a finalist in the 5,000 and 10,000 at the 2012 London Olympics, shattered the Canadian record in his marathon debut in 2018. He fell short on two attempts over the past year to qualify for Tokyo, but the 32-year-old from Black Creek, B.C., finally dipped under the mark on May 23 — a week before the qualifying window closed — in Styria, Austria, despite running in rain and alone for the last 25 kilometres of the race.
Ben Preisner is the third men's marathoner nominated to the team.
"I am so pumped about this group of athletes," said Canada's chef de mission Marnie McBean. "They chose the 'suffer' events and make them look easy. Many of their recent results have been a beacon of light for the whole of Team Canada."
Mathieu Bilodeau joins Dunfee in the 50-kilometre race walk based on his world ranking.
The marathons and race walk events will be held in Sapporo due to Tokyo's heat, and because of COVID-19, athletes will be restricted to staying in Sapporo.
"Woohoo! Stellar Sapporo crew locked in," tweeted Dunfee, who was fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics. "We'll be the only Team Canada teammates we see at the Olympics, sequestered 800km away, so I'm stoked that these people are all so lovely."
Mohammed Ahmed and Andrea Seccafien were nominated in the men's and women's 10,000. Ahmed owns the Canadian records in the 5,000 and 10,000 and won bronze in the 5,000 at the 2019 world championships. Seccafien broke the Canadian record in the 10,000 just three weeks ago.
The window to qualify in the 10,000 remains open for another month, so Canada could add runners in that distance based on either their world ranking or by achieving an automatic entry standard.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2021.