World awaits Canadians

ALISON KORN -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

The head coach of Athletics Canada is "cautiously optimistic" about his team's chances at the 11th IAAF world track and field championship starting tomorrow in Osaka, Japan, declaring a goal for the Canadian contingent to win two medals.

These worlds feature a record 203 countries participating, and five Canadians will be in action on opening day, fresh from a successful two-week training camp in Singapore. In all, 28 Canadians will compete until Sept. 2.

"I'm cautiously optimistic but I want to make sure we don't overlook the difficulty to make the final, to get out of the first rounds," Athletics Canada head coach Les Gramantik said.

"The margin of error in every event is so small, if you make a mistake early you can only watch the final on television. To win two medals and have most of our athletes finish top eight or top 12 would be an accomplishment. Track and field is such a global sport -- other than soccer, no sport has similar levels of competitiveness."

Gramantik points to the encouraging renaissance of the Canadian men's 4x100 metre relay team that won silver at the Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer, and Canada's triple threat of Perdita Felicien, Angela Whyte and Priscilla Lopes in women's 100-metre hurdles. There also are mid-distance medal chances with Tyler Christopher in 400 metres, Gary Reed in 800 metres and Adam Kunkel in 400-metre hurdles.

Also edging in to the limelight is the baby of the team, 23-year-old hammer thrower Jim Steacy, who described his impending debut at the worlds as "a dream come true" after an unbelievable 2007 season.

"I've broken my national record three times, won my fourth national championship, and won the Pan American championship, it's just been almost surreal to have this kind of a summer," said Steacy, who also won silver at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

"Being here is, I don't want to say icing on the cake, but it's very close to it.

"Until this year I just shrugged it off as an outside chance, but it became a reality really quick."

Steacy will aim to break his national record of 77.38 metres when he competes in Osaka tomorrow night.

Other Canadians competing tomorrow will be Pan American Games gold medallist Dylan Armstrong from Kamloops, B.C., in the shot put, Brantford's Kevin Sullivan in the 1,500 metres, and Anson Henry from Pickering in the 100-metre dash. Vancouver's Diane Cummins, who also won gold at the Pan Am Games, will take part in the 800 metres.

And Adam Kunkel from Paisley, Ont., begins his quest for the podium in the 400-metre hurdles after setting a Canadian record at the Pan Am Games on his way to the gold medal.

Impressively, he owns the fifth-fastest time in the world this season (48.24).

"All the athletes who showed up at the training camp, I'm impressed with their desire to prepare," said Gramantik, shrewdly building his team by declining to single out anyone as superior.

"I have very high hopes for the three girls in the hurdles," Gramantik noted.

"They all look very good."

The most recent time Canadians shared a podium was in 1995 in Gothenburg, Sweden, when Donovan Bailey won gold in the 100 metres and Bruny Surin copped silver.

The men's 4x100 metre relay team also won gold and decathlete Michael Smith won bronze to account for Canada's best world championship showing.

Along with world bragging rights, there's prize money on the table in Osaka, from $60,000 US for an individual gold and $80,000 for a relay gold, down to $4,000 for eighth place.

A world record fetches a bonus of $100,000.

Chantal Petitclerc from Montreal and Diane Roy from Hatley, Que., will both take part in the 1,500 metres wheelchair demonstration event on Sept. 1.

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WHERE CANADIANS STAND

Here's how the Canadians scheduled to compete at the world track and field championship are ranked by the IAAF in their respective events, as of Aug. 14 (PB -- personal best time or distance):

NAME EVENT RANKING PB

Richard Adu-Bobie 4x100m 10th 38.81

Dylan Armstrong Shot put 8th 20.72m

Simon Bairu 10000m 20th 27:50.71

Brian Barnett 200m 24th 20.48

4x100m 10th 38.31

Tim Berrett 50km race walk 24th 3:55:08

Tyler Christopher 400m 8th 44.93

Jared Connaughton 4x100m 10th 38.81

Diane Cummins 800m 18th 1:59.75

Carmen Douma-Hussar 1500m 22nd 4:05.91

Perdita Felicien 100m hurdles 7th 12.65

Nicole Forrester High jump 10th 1.97m

Anson Henry 100m NA

4x100m 10th 38.81

Shannon King 4x100m 10th 38.81

Adam Kunkel 400m hurdles 5th 48.24

Lioudmila Kortchaguina Marathon 41st 2:31:57

Priscilla Lopes 100m hurdles 15th 12.82

Jared MacLeod 110m hurdles 27th 13.55

Gary Reed 800m 5th 1:44.03

Scott Russell Javelin 11th 83.98m

Jim Steacy Hammer throw 24th 77.38m

Hilary Stellingwerff 1500m 20th 4:05.69

Kevin Sullivan 1500m 15th 3:34.16

Achraf Tadili 800m 30th 1:45.84

Angela Whyte 100m hurdles 6th 12.63

Neville Wright 4x100m 10th 38.81


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