TORONTO - Legendary Canadian sprinter Bruny Surin issued a challenge — a plea really — for someone, anyone, to step up and break his 100-metre Canadian record.
“It’s time,” said Surin. “I’ve been retired for 10 years now, Donovan 11 years, but we still have the record.”
Surin, who was inducted into Athletics Canada’s Hall of Fame on Friday morning prior to the start of the day’s events at the Olympic track and field trials, said 13 years is far too long for record to stand. The Montreal native tied the Canadian record for the 100 (9.84 seconds) at the 1999 world championships in Seville, Spain, three years after Oakville’s Donovan Bailey ran the same time at the 1996 Olympics to set the then world record.
“I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t care if my record gets beaten,” said Surin, while sitting in the stands at Foothills Athletic Park on Friday. “Some people want to hold their record for years and years and years. I want it to be broken. I’m very sincere about that. And I hope the Canadian who runs 9.83, I’ll be there watching it.”
He may be an old man by then. Since the heyday of Surin and Bailey, sprinting in Canada has fallen into the doldrums. Not only has no one come close to breaking their record, no one has come close to breaking 10 flat. But Surin would like nothing better for the new breed of talented sprinters in Canada — guys like Justyn Warner, his younger brother Ian Warner, and Aaron Brown, all of Toronto — to start breaking the 10-second barrier and, eventually, go under 9.84 — though he’s certainly not holding his breath, though Justyn Warner did impress the crowd at the Canadian Olympic trials on Friday night. At last year’s Canadians, on the same track, Warner was disqualified after a false start. Friday night, he blew away the field to win the 100-metre title in 10.15 to qualify for London in the 100. Ian Warner finished second in a personal best 10.20, and will likely join Justyn on the Olympic 4x100-metre relay team. Sort of a Warner Brothers presentation. Third was Oluseyi Smith in 10.22.
Surin, one of the true gentlemen of track and field, believes the 25-year-old Justyn, the 2006 world junior championship silver medallist and Canadian junior record holder (10.26), has the talent to eventually get close to 9.84, but said the sprinter has believe he can do it.
“It’s all here,” said Surin, pointing to his head. “It’s psychological. The guys need to know that they can do it. People say I’m being tough on them, but I was tough on myself. When I ran 9.9, I was not satisfied. And that’s the attitude I want everybody to feel. Don’t be happy with 10.2 if you have the potential to run 10.0.”
For his part, Warner certainly wasn’t offended by Surin’s challenge. In fact, the former Birchmount Park Collegiate football star said he agrees that it is time for the young generation to get the led out.
“It’s been too long since we had (something) going on. We need a breakthrough,” Warner said. “Records are meant to be broken and it would be nice to have the junior and senior record at the same time.
“But it will come,” he added. “That’s always been my goal — to put Canada back on the map. Slowly but surely I’m getting up there. People are starting to know who I am and that Canada has a sprint crew.
Warner is coached by Desai Williams and Anthony McCleary, with input from Surin, who he considers his role model. He said he has promised Surin that he will eventually break his, and Bailey’s, record.
“I feed off Bruny,” said Warner. “He’s been a big mentor of mine. I talk to him more and more and he tells me all the right things I got to do. So I’ll get there.”
CALGARY — Four years ago, before the 1,500-metre semifinals at the Beijing Olympics, Cambridge, Ont., runner Nathan Brannen approached the starting line feeling like one of those guys who danced behind Michael Jackson in the Thriller video.
Needless to say, when you feel like a Zombie, you don’t race very well. And Brannen didn’t race particularly well, finishing ninth in his semi, failing to qualify for the final.
It was a personal nightmare for Brannen, who won the 1,500-metre final at the Canadian track and field trials on Friday at Foothills Athletic Park in 3:49.22 to punch his ticket to the London Olympics.
For two days prior to his race in Beijing, he couldn’t sleep. And by the time the semi rolled around, he was completely spent.
“I had a good race the first round (but then) I kind of psyched myself up too much,” said Brannen, adding that the pressure to final and perhaps even win a medal had become too intense.
“I was super-tired from not sleeping and then mentally it got to me,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘I haven’t slept for two nights, I’m not going to be able to run fast.’ I kind of talked myself out of it.”
Brannen said having three athletes packed into a small, hot room in the Athletes Village didn’t help, and neither did a prescription sleep aid he took. But on the up side, it was a valuable lesson learned and the 29-year-old heads into the London Olympics knowing precisely how to prepare for all his races — the heats, the semis and, hopefully, the 1500-metre final.
“I’ve been there,” he said.
Brannen set a personal best in the 1,500 on May 27 at a race in The Netherlands (3:34.22) which qualified him for London, and it’s his goal before he retires to achieve, or even surpass, the performances set in years past by former Canadian middle distance greats Kevin Sullivan and Graham Hood. Sullivan is the Canadian record holder in the 1,500 (3:31.71) and Graham Hood in the 1,000. Given the incredible depth in world field in track, and the 1,500 in particular, Brannen feels that neither Sullivan, who finished fifth at the 2000 Olympics, nor Hood received their due from the Canadian public.
“I can see them walking away from the sport a little bit bitter based (on the fact that) they weren’t a little more popular,” said Brannen. “They did amazing things. It would be nice if more people knew those names.”