De Grasse withdraws from national championship with COVID; still eligible for worlds

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Canadian sprint star Andre De Grasse has been knocked out of the national track and field championships by COVID-19 just a month before the worlds.

The six-time Olympic medallist had been rounding into form after an early-season foot injury, winning the 100 metres at the Oslo Diamond League meet last week in a season's best 10.05 seconds.

"I'm obviously pretty disappointed not to be able to race at home in front of the Canadian fans in Langley," De Grasse said in a statement. "Hopefully I can get back to training pretty quickly and prepare for the rest of the season."

De Grasse is among several high-profile athletes to withdraw from the Canadian championships set begin Wednesday in Langley, B.C.

Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner, Olympic 5,000-metre silver medallist Mohammed Ahmed, fellow distance competitors Justyn Knight and Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, and Paralympic star Brent Lakatos are among the meet's other late scratches.

While the virus is a setback in De Grasse's training, he's expected to be fully recovered in time for the world track and field championships, which run July 15-24 in Eugene, Ore.

Athletics Canada has an injury/illness exemption built into qualifying criteria that permits athletes to miss the national championships. They can be named to the team having achieved standards in the qualifying window.

"Andre De Grasse, Damian Warner, and Mohammed Ahmed are out of the (national event) having received medical exemptions from our medical staff," the national federation said in a statement. "Athletics Canada expect all three to be healthy and ready by the time the world championships begin."

Gar Leyshon, Warner's coach, says the Olympic champion is skipping nationals due to a sore knee.

"It's been a thing this year, chronic and nothing serious, but we're being cautious," he said.

A 27-year-old from Markham, Ont., De Grasse was fourth in the 200 in the Paris Diamond League on Saturday. His time of 20.38 was a season's best, but still well off his Canadian record of 19.62 he ran to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics. He tested positive for COVID shortly after returning to his Florida home.

With his three medals in Japan last summer, De Grasse became Canada's most decorated male Olympian with six podium finishes. He's won a medal in each of his Olympic races. Short-track speedskater Charles Hamelin tied De Grasse with his sixth medal at the Beijing Games this past winter.

DeBues-Stafford, who was fifth at the Tokyo Olympics in the 1,500, was recently forced to shut down her outdoor season due to a stress reaction in her pelvis.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2022.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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