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Locked on target: Canadian men's 4x100m relay team eyes repeat at world championships

Andre De Grasse Aaron Brown Jerome Blake and Brendon Rodney Andre De Grasse, Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake, and Brendon Rodney - The Canadian Press

With targets on their backs, the Canadian men’s 4x100-metre relay team has its eyes locked on a singular objective: repeat.

Canada won gold at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore., with a world-leading time of 37.48 seconds. The team of Andre De Grasse, Aaron Brown, Brendon Rodney and Jerome Blake is also currently tied for the world-leading time with Japan this year at 37.80, having achieved it at the Florida Relays on April 1.

As the 2023 world championships unfold from Saturday to Aug. 27 in Budapest, Hungary, Blake says the group knows what it will take to get the job done.

““Everyone's looking at us,” he said. “So for us it's just go out there and just do what we know how to do … run good races and have really good solid passes and we know if we do that, we can contend at the highest level. So that's kind of where we are mentally right now.”

De Grasse shared a similar sentiment, while acknowledging what awaits them.

“It’s definitely gonna be tough,” he said. “You got the Americans, you got the Jamaicans, and you got the Brits. It’s always two or three teams in the mix, so yeah, it’s definitely gonna be a challenge but I think we’ll definitely be ready to take it on and try our best to defend that title.”

The Canadians received their silver medals from the Tokyo Olympics in a reallocation ceremony at the Canadian championships in Langley, B.C., in July.

The upgrade from bronze came after a doping violation cost Great Britain its silver.

“We were super excited to finally actually get our silver medal in Langley,” De Grasse said. “We kind of talked after that moment, like, ‘Let’s try to repeat again in Budapest,’ and then of course upgrade … our medal from Tokyo.

“We got a bronze in Rio (2016), we got a silver in Tokyo (2021), so we can complete the quest with a gold in Paris (in 2024) — that would be amazing. So I think that’s something we’re all just striving to do.”

The relay team's chemistry, built over time, has significantly contributed to their achievements.

De Grasse, Brown and Rodney have been together since 2015, winning bronze at worlds that year in Beijing, China — along with Justyn Warner. Blake joined them in 2019.

“I think we're pretty close,” Blake said. “We talk … especially when we're at training camps and stuff together, it's all fun and games. We play dominoes together and hang out pretty much all day, every day when we're at training camps.

"Outside of that, me and Aaron train together so I see him almost every day. Andre lives in Florida, so we see him from time to time as well. And Brendon (stays) in Jamaica, so we don't really see him as much in person but we have a group chat that we have little conversations there … it's a fun thing."

That closeness is evident even when competing against one another.

“At the end of the day, you know, we support each other to the fullest,” Blake said. “Even before we ran the 200-metre finals (at nationals), we were all dapping each other up at the line, all four of us, saying, ‘Hey, good luck. Good luck. Good luck,’ all around and you know, kind of just go out there and just know, like, ‘Hey, like, I'm trying to beat you regardless of what this is, whatever our friendship is.'

"So for us, it's like we have a really good friendship … But at the same time, seeing your compatriot running very fast, that really does help you out a lot knowing that, like, 'OK, you can rely on this person to do their job when it comes time for the relay running.' … So it's always good just to see your compatriots running well."

De Grasse believes his teammates have made significant strides ahead of worlds.

"I can see it from the outside looking in how much better my teammates have got and how they’re striving so much to be better and more successful in their individual events," De Grasse said. "Especially after the Canadian championships, just seeing Brendon Rodney run a personal best (10.00 seconds in the 100).

"So I think everyone Is just doing a great job of just trying to repeat that (win)."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2023.