Athletics TrialsMundo Sports Images
Mundo Sports Images

Olympic Athletics Trials: Paris 2024 excitement brewing in Montreal

Although the temperatures in Montreal might not be as hot as they’re expected to be in Paris this summer, the Canadian athletes on the track and in the field have brought the heat through the first three days of the Bell Track & Field Trials at the Claude-Robillard Sports Complex.

The 2024 trials, doubling as the Canadian National Championships, continue through Saturday and Sunday. 

Katzberg teases Canadian soil record; Rogers punches Paris ticket 

On the opening night of the trials, 22-year-old Ethan Katzberg made history amidst a downpour. He broke the Canadian Championship hammer throw record three times, winning with a throw of 82.60 meters, surpassing the final mark on the competition ground. 

While the Nanaimo native didn’t break his Canadian record of 84.38m, set in April, he teased the longest throw ever on Canadian soil, which remains at 83.38m by Poland’s Szymon Ziółkowski at the 2001 World Athletics Championships in Edmonton. 

​​“It’s really exciting, and having the crowd involved in all the throws really got my energy going. It was a really fun evening, and I think it showed in the throwing,” Katzberg said. “We’re taking it day by day and just focusing on the training. We’re very focused on keeping our heads down and hoping for a good outcome in Paris.”

Camryn Rogers from nearby Richmond, BC, claimed her fourth Canadian title and punched her ticket to Paris with a throw of 75.05m. A second Olympic Games is within her sights, and her resume already boasts two world championship podiums: silver in 2022 and gold in 2023. 

“I couldn’t be happier to know that it’s happening – my second Olympic Games. It’s something I could have only dreamed of when I was younger,” Rogers said. “I started throwing in 2012. I remember watching the Olympics about seven months in. I remember Sultana [Frizzell] competing and was like, ‘Oh my God!’ It was something I knew I wanted to work towards.

Already world champions, Katzberg and Rogers will head to the Paris Games as the top-ranked hammer throwers in the world and will have high hopes when they reach the circle in the French capital. 

“It’s encouraging and rewarding that we’re being acknowledged for our accomplishments,” Katzberg added. “Camryn is doing her thing, and for me, having that support is incredible.” 

De Grasse, Leduc take dramatic 100m titles

For the first time since 2017, Andre De Grasse finds himself as the 100m Canadian champion. While a timing error created some drama, initially awarding the title to Eliezer Adjibi, the adjustment saw De Grasse take the win in 10.20, while Adjibii finished second in 10.23. 

Less than two weeks after running the Olympic standard time of 10.00 seconds in Turku, Finland, the Canadian title win secured De Grasse’s spot in the Paris 2024 100m, setting him up to chase his seventh Olympic medal and third in the event. 

Aaron Brown, the defending national champion in the event, rounded out the podium in 10.25 seconds and likely set himself up to qualify for Paris 2024 based on the World Athletics rankings. 

“I’m just really excited to run on home soil and come away with another national title here in Montreal. The crowd was amazing, and today was just a sign to show where I’m at in my preparation,” De Grasse said, bound for his third Olympics.

“I’ve come away with so many Olympic medals, and sometimes you kind of take that for granted, how much success I’ve had, but I want to upgrade those medals. In the 100, I’ve won back-to-back bronze, so if I can get a silver or contend for a gold, that’s the plan.”

While De Grasse’s established presence as a top sprinter approaches the decade mark, 25-year-old Audrey Leduc punched her first Olympic ticket and won her first Canadian 100m title on Friday night, continuing a season that has seen her smash the national 100m and 200m records. 

Audrey Leduc Paris 2024
Audrey Leduc – Sean Burgess/Mundo Sports Images

Leduc ran 11.20 to win the women’s title and clinch her spot in front of a crazed Quebec crowd. She is now set to run the 100m and likely the 4x100m relay in Paris, having helped that Canadian relay squad reach the Olympics for the first time since Rio 2016. 

“I’m just excited for what’s gonna happen in Paris,” the 25-year-old Leduc said. “To be able to do that in front of the Quebec crowd is just amazing.”

Ahmed dazzles in 5,000m

Mo Ahmed became the first Canadian athlete to medal in a distance event at the World Athletics Championships, and the Tokyo 2020 bronze medalist stole the show in the men’s 5,000m on Thursday night, setting himself up for a race at Paris 2024. 

Mo Ahmed Team Canada Paris 2024
Mo Ahmed – Mundo Sports Images

With Thomas Fafard challenging for the Canadian title, Ahmed set a new championship record of 13:10.99, the fastest time ever by a Canadian on Canadian soil, marking the 21st time he’s broken the 13:12.00 mark. It’s also the second ticket he’s secured to Paris, having previously qualified in the 10,000m. 

Fafard finished second on the day, ahead of Ben Flanagan in 13:18.02, while Flanagan had already run the automatic qualifying standard for Paris at 13:04.62 at an indoor meet in Boston in January. 

“I tried pushing it a little bit, but maybe I went a little too hard,” Ahmed said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I got really jazzed up for this one. I hadn’t competed at the Canadian championships since 2019, and it’s always good to be back home.”

The win was Ahmed’s eighth Canadian Championship title and fifth in the 5,000m, while he continues to chase his season-best mark of 12:54.22, set in May. 

Mitton continues to impress

Sarah Mitton topped the women’s shotput event on Friday afternoon and is set for her second Olympics in a much different light than her first. Since making her Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, the Brooklyn, Nova Scotia native has gone on to win the World Athletics indoor championship, Commonwealth Games and Pan Am Games while adding a silver medal at the World Athletics Championships. 

In Montreal, the 28-year-old threw 19.62m, securing her fourth straight Canadian title, setting her up for Paris 2024, already boasting the world’s longest throw in 2024 at 20.68m, set in May, which also stands as a Canadian record. 

“This time, it just feels totally different,” Mitton said. “We’re preparing more for a medal, and that’s just a totally different feeling going into the Games.

“I feel very confident. A lot has changed since I went to the Olympics last time during COVID. I’m excited to have a crowd. I’m excited to have my family there. I’m just excited about taking the whole thing in.”

McCabe, Desgagnés win 3,000m steeplechase

Vancouver’s Ceili McCabe secured her Paris 2024 qualification on Thursday night. Jean-Simon Desgagnés put himself in a strong position as well, as the pair won their respective 3,000m steeplechase events on the second night of trials. 

Ceili McCabe Paris 2024
Ceili McCabe – Mundo Sports Images

McCabe, who set the Canadian record in the event earlier this year, finished her race in 9:32.97, ahead of Canadian Diamond League regular Regan Yee, who finished in 9:41.07, while Grace Featherstonaugh rounded out the podium in 9:43.13. 

“I’m feeling really good; it’s nice to have it set now and focus on the next month in preparation,” she said. “I’ve been pretty steady going through the season, but I’m going to try to get to that next level and peak.

While McCabe got her hands on the iconic Air Canada boarding pass to signify preliminary qualification, Desgagnés will have to wait. Despite winning the Canadian title in 8:34.56., he hasn’t hit the Olympic standard time of 8:15.00 but does rank highly in the World Athletics selection quota, putting him in a strong position to qualify for Paris 2024. 

Newman sets season best in pole vault win

It was only March when Alysha Newman’s hopes for Paris 2024 might have been in danger, having to pull out of the World Athletics Indoor Championship Final in Glasgow, Scotland, with a gruelling ankle injury. Yet, she put that doubt away on her birthday in Montreal, clearing a season-best 4.75m to win the women’s pole vault competition and set herself up for Paris 2024. 

“I feel really excited to be where I’m at. Any sport you do, any time you’re jumping high and going for records, it gives you a lot of confidence,” she said. “I want to go to [the Olympics], I want to have fun, and enjoy it like I did tonight, and just showcase and entertain. I jump high when I’m having fun, and I think I need to remember that.”

The win marked Newman’s sixth Canadian title and best result since February 2023, when she vaulted 4.78m, while also setting her up for a third Olympic trip at 30 years old.