The 27-year-old from North Vancouver, BC, stepped into the final straight away to win the women’s 800-meter at the Olympic track and field trials on Friday.
As she crossed the finish line, she looked at the time and both hands flew to her mouth in delight. Butterworth won in one minute 59.19 seconds, dipping below the Olympic automatic standard of 1: 59.50 – and ultimately shattering that elusive two-minute mark.
“I just saw the time and was in shock and happiness,” Butterworth said.
Butterworth passed world silver medalist Melissa Bishop-Nriagu just feet from the finish line to win in front of no fans at the Claude Robillard Sports Complex. Bishop-Nriagu, whose place in Tokyo was almost blocked after already running the qualifying standard twice, was second in 1: 59.50. Madeleine Kelly ran 2:00:30 to finish third and could still win a trip to Tokyo based on the World Athletics rankings.
Earlier today, Crystal Emmanuel won her eighth national title in the women’s 100-meters, while Aaron Brown won his third straight men’s title in the men’s 100-meters, missing three-time Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse.
And John Gay ran the Olympic standard by winning the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Butterworth first ran two minutes flat in 2018, and has been woefully close to crossing that barrier on several occasions since, including in three races earlier this season.
“I think just getting rid of this (idea) that this is a huge obstacle was like a huge turning point,” said Butterworth, who became the seventh Canadian in history to cross the road. two minutes bar. “I think this year for other girls like Maddy Kelly who run really well, we know it’s not an elusive barrier anymore. It’s doable for us… and being so consistent, knowing it’s right there, is definitely a huge turning point. “
She was not yet celebrating a place in the Olympic team. There is another meeting in Montreal in four days.
“(But) it’s a huge relief to have performed the standard, because I’ve been thinking about it for so long. It’s like, and it’s just nice to put it on paper, ”she said.
Gay threw both arms in his arm as he crossed the steeplechase finish line in 8.20.68, beating the norm of 8:22.
The 24-year-old hadn’t even planned to take part in the trials.
“It was kind of the storybook ending this long season-long chase,” he said. “A week ago I was about to take a flight to Sweden for a last-ditch race and I had a hunch that this was not where I needed to be, I have to be here , I have to run these national championships, these are our Olympic events. “
Gay was actually already one of three flights on his trip when he changed his mind.
“I unplugged the plug when we landed in Montreal, booked a return flight, and here I am a week later – confirmation that that instinct, as crazy as it looked back then, has paid off. Everything resulted in this. “
Emmanuel, meanwhile, let out a celebratory roar as she crossed the finish line in the women’s 100, breaking the silence in the empty stadium.
Canada’s most dominant sprinter for almost a decade is known to turn up the crowd. Photos from the finish line often capture his mouth open halfway up, or sticking out his pierced tongue in a broad smile.
But in the COVID-19 age of sports, there were no fans to entertain. So she screamed for herself.
“For me it wasn’t too weird, as I traveled and also ran home without a crowd, so I’m a bit used to it,” Emmanuel said. “It was a great opportunity to run and aim for the (Olympic) standard for the 100 for Tokyo.
“Just having a good run during these times is a really good thing. “
Emmanuel ran 11.18 seconds, narrowly missing Tokyo’s automatic qualifying standard of 11.14. The points earned from winning the Canadian Trials, however, should push the 29-year-old from Toronto up the world track and field rankings high enough for a place in Tokyo in the event.
She has already run the automatic qualifying standard in the 200 meters.
Khamica Bingham was second in 11.25, while Shyvonn Roxborough was third.
Brown ran 10.12 seconds to easily win the men’s race. He and De Grasse had already hit the automatic standards in the 100 and 200, so Brown was using the trials as the final tune-up for Tokyo.
And therefore, zero pressure.
“It’s not like crossing (the finish line) the first two, the first three to create a kind of team situation, so for me it was a race just to break the training block.” Brown said. “But still a national championship, and I did my best to approach it like that.
“And it was really weird not having the crowd and the same electricity as last time. But I’m happy with my triple round, three in a row, you can’t be mad at that. “
Jerome Blake was second in 10.27, while Bolade Ajomale was third in 10.36.
Due to Canada’s border restrictions around COVID-19, Athletics Canada said a few weeks ago that athletes who had met qualifying standards did not need to compete in Montreal to be on the team. De Grasse chose not to travel to Montreal, but Brown said that because his own training group in Florida was competing in the US trials this week, he and Blake spent time training in Vancouver and then in Montreal.
Damian Warner, who recently broke his Canadian decathlon record to win the Hypo-Meeting in Gotzis, won the long jump on Friday with a mark of 7.81 meters. He will also compete in the 110-meter hurdles in Montreal.
Liz Gleadle threw 59.81 meters to win the women’s javelin, while Noelle Montcalm ran 56.34 to win the women’s 400 hurdles and Philip Osei ran 46.60 to win the men’s 400.
Regan Yee of Hazelton, BC, won the women’s 3000 steeplechase, finishing just outside the required qualifying time. It could still be selected on the basis of world rankings.
Between travel restrictions, quarantine requirements and a drastically altered competition schedule by COVID-19, Canadian track and field athletes have faced enormous hurdles to qualify for Tokyo. Many have traveled to the United States in recent weeks to compete, but then faced quarantine requirements upon their return home.
The trials are a last chance for many athletes to reach the standards, and due to the third wave of the pandemic in Canada, Athletics Canada only got the green light to host them three weeks ago.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 25, 2021.