Barnett cops rare double

Brian Barnett has established himself as a rising force in sprinting for Canada. (Sun Media/Jordan...

Brian Barnett has established himself as a rising force in sprinting for Canada. (Sun Media/Jordan Verlage)

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

Edmonton native Brian Barnett was a bright light in an otherwise fairly mediocre Canadian track and field championships this past week.

Barnett, a 2006 world junior championships sprint silver medallist, yesterday became the first man since Montreal's Nic Macrozonaris to win the sprint double at the Canadians. The 22-year-old won the 100 on Saturday in 10.28 seconds, in the face of a significant headwind, and then captured the 200 yesterday at Varsity Stadium in 20.71.

Neither time threatens the Canadian record, but Barnett certainly has established himself as a rising force in sprinting and likely will anchor the highly ranked Canadian men's 4x100 metre sprint team at the world championships in Berlin in August.

He'll also likely run the 100 metres at the worlds.

His performance this week on the new University of Toronto track is good news for the relay squad, which finished sixth at last year's Beijing Olympics.

Relay coach Glenroy Gilbert has done a good job, but in order to consistently threaten for a medal at the highest level, the best sprinters in Canada do have to get faster individually. Indeed, the quickest time posted by a Canadian male so far this year in the 100 is a 10.23, which ranks as only the 84th fastest in the world. Barnett's best time this season (10.27) wouldn't crack the top 100.

"We have the skill set," Canadian head coach Alex Gardiner said, in praise of Gilbert's work. "But we do have to get faster. We have to have four guys that are 10.20 or better and two of those have to go 10.15 or 10.10 by 2012 (London Olympics). That will get us right near the podium."

On the positive side, the core of the Canadian team is one of the youngest of the top units, with nine of the top 10 ranked sprinters 24 years old or younger.

"That's exciting not just for Berlin and the 2012 Olympics, but for the 2016 Olympics as well," Gardiner said. I think we'll see a breakthrough there.

"We have a lot of room to grow. Canada should be getting stronger," added Barnett. "I say, this year, if we all bring our best at Berlin, there's no reason why we don't medal.

Unlike previous Canadian relay teams, there is very little conflict or ego on this current squad, according to Barnett.

"If Glenroy says: 'Run this leg', you run that leg," said Barnett.

As for his own development, Barnett is hopeful that he can become an elite sprinter in both the 100 and the 200, although the 100 seems to be his better event. It has been a while since Canada has had a sprinter in the calibre of Donovan Bailey or Bruny Surin. Barnett said he is a fan of both sprint greats, but he still hasn't reached the point where he is comfortable calling one or the other for advice or anything like that.

The day may be coming when they call him.


Videos

Photos