Canada's Marco Arop wins bronze in men's 800m at athletics worlds

·4 min read
Canada's Marco Arop celebrates after capturing bronze in the men's 800-metre final at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters - image credit)
Canada's Marco Arop celebrates after capturing bronze in the men's 800-metre final at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters - image credit)

Marco Arop has become just the second Canadian man in history to win a medal in the 800 metres at the World Athletics Championships.

With a roaring crowd at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., Arop powered his six-foot-four frame to the finish line in a time of 1:44.28 to win bronze.

The 23-year-old from Edmonton draped himself in a Canadian flag and couldn't stop flashing his signature smile as he basked in the cheers from the fans.

He did a victory lap around Hayward, stopping to take photos, sign autographs and wave the flag at fans.

"That was awesome, definitely worth the struggles, the ups and downs. All great; I'm grateful for every part of it. To come out with a bronze medal is amazing," he told CBC Sports after the race.

WATCH l Marco Arop claims bronze at athletics worlds:

Kenya's Emmanuel Kipkurui Korir won gold in a time of 1:43.71. Algeria's Djamel Sedjati finished second in a time of 1:44.14.

Prior to the race, as he was being introduced, Arop waved his hands in the air to whip the fans into a frenzy before the gun sounded.

He got into a bit of trouble in the first couple hundred metres, nearly tripping up in the pack. But Arop says he leaned on his experience at that moment.

"It happens all the time in this race. I knew that if I stayed calm, relaxed and composed I could race my race," Arop said.

WATCH l Marco Arop reflects on winning bronze:

In the past, Arop has been most comfortable being a frontrunner — getting ahead of the pack early has been successful for him in races.

But after running out of steam a year ago in the semifinal at the Olympics with that race strategy, Arop has evolved his approach — he now uses his intuition and lets the race unfold before making his move.

With about 300 metres left in Saturday's race, Arop charged ahead of the pack and just hoped he would hold on for a podium finish.

"I remember how the race went on Thursday. I had a great kick. If I wanted to beat these guys I needed to get the lead. I thought I did pretty well," Arop said.

"I was just hoping they never came."

Arop was passed by Korir and Sedjati in the closing metres but fended off the rest of the pack.

"Stay composed. Staying calm even when things look hard. Stay focused. It helped me at the end," Arop said.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

His family was watching his run back in Edmonton.

Twenty years earlier his parents, mother Aluel Lual and father Rau Arop, fled the civil war in Sudan.

In the 1990s, Aluel and Rau moved their young family from Abyei, which was in the heart of disputed territory, to safer confines in the country's capital of Khartoum. It was there Marco was born in 1998, the family's fourth son.

Unfortunately, they didn't find it safe in Khartoum either. After three years in Egypt, the family then made the decision to move to Saskatoon before finally settling in Edmonton a year later.

Through it all, Arop has felt the support of his family and friends both in Canada and Sudan.

"There are so many people who have helped me become the person I am today," Arop said.

"Everyone I've met along the way, in my country back home and all Canadians, I'm hoping I'm making them happy."

Aluel and Rau wanted a better life for their six sons and knew very early on that Marco had athletic talent.

"He is incredible. Marco is an incredible boy; he is a special boy," Rau said. "We are really blessed the way Marco came all the way from Africa to Canada, one could not believe an immigrant boy could become a star in the country and the world."

WATCH l Breaking down what sets Marco Arop apart from the pack:

Marco played basketball during high school but wasn't serious about track until 2016.

It was a steady climb for Arop — from the junior national team in 2017 to the world championships in 2019 to the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021, Marco has been getting better year after year.

Just three years ago he finished seventh in his worlds debut.

"It all does feel really fast at times. I want to be the best I can be and the best in the world," Arop said.

In the span of six years he's gone from beginning his track career to world champion bronze medallist.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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