The Canadian men’s 4×100 relay team aims to qualify and then build on its mission at the World Relay

While this weekend’s goal is to qualify for the Paris Olympics, the Canadian men’s 4×100-meter relay team is aiming higher.

Canada will have its men’s 4×100, 4×400, women’s 4×100 and 4×400, as well as a 4×400 mixed relay team at the World Athletic Relays in Nassau, Bahamas. The first 14 of the 16 Games qualifying spots in each relay event will be allocated during the competition.

The 4×100 men’s team of Jerome Blake, Brendon Rodney, Aaron Brown and Andre De Grasse are the reigning Olympic silver medalists and 2022 world champions.

“While we’re here, we might as well try to get the win,” Brown said. “Once we get to the finals, we’ll go bust and really test it, maybe try some different legs, see who can do what. Or see if we stick with Eugene’s championship team (in 2022).

“Now it’s really about testing character and seeing who’s in shape, what kind of chemistry we can experience and build and work out the kinks and get ready for Paris. This is like our dress rehearsal and we are approaching it with seriousness.”

The team suffered a disappointment last summer in Budapest, Hungary, when it failed to defend its world title by not qualifying for the final. De Grasse was in the heats with the 200 final just two hours into the race, and Bolade Ajomale stepped into his place as anchor.

Brown said the team has moved on without pointing fingers and has shifted its focus to winning Olympic gold in Paris this summer.

Head coach Glenroy Gilbert believes Budapest has served as a ‘wake-up call’.

“I don’t think we collectively took it for granted as a group, but I don’t think the second-string athletes were ready for it,” he said. “I don’t think they thought we might be without one of our starters and we might have to rely on the next level. So I think we were caught off guard and unprepared. We are now prepared.”

While the 4×100 team has a track record of success, the men’s 4×400 team has a history of disappointment.

Canada has not fielded a men’s 4×400 team at the Olympic Games since the 1992 Barcelona Games, and has only won a medal in the event twice: in 1928 and 1932. The Canadian record of three minutes and 2.64 seconds, set in 1976, still standing.

Although Gilbert did not reveal who would run on the 4×400 and mixed relay teams, notable names expected to compete include 800 world champion Marco Arop and 400 standout Christopher Morales Williams of the University of Georgia.

“It’s great. I have to tell you it’s really good that Christopher is coming and that his school is allowing him to compete with the Canadian team in the World Relays. I think it helps,” said Gilbert.

Arop played a key role in Canada’s qualification for the World Relays at the Florida Relays in Gainesville, Florida on March 30.

Gilbert praised Arop’s speed and positive influence on the team.

“Great to have his contribution as he is one of the fastest splits we had in Gainesville a few weeks ago. So it’s very good to have a body like that and someone with his behavior in general,” he said. “I think it’s contagious to have him around.”

Prior to the Florida Relays, where Canada rode fast enough to earn the 32nd and final qualifying spot for the world championship, Arop had not raced the 4×400 since 2019 while at Mississippi State University.

“The 4×400 we raced in Florida, that wasn’t the whole team. That was just a few good guys together to qualify,” Arop said. “I think we can run much faster.

“I don’t want to jinx it, but I do believe the Canadian record will be broken this weekend. I’m almost certain. To what extent, I’m not sure, but I think we have the guys to be competitive on the world stage.”