De Grasse has COVID, won't race sprint double this week at track and field nationals

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Sprinter Andre De Grasse will not compete this week at the Canadian track and field championship in Langley, B.C. after testing positive for COVID-19 upon his return from France, where he ran a season-best time in the 200 metres on Saturday at the Meeting de Paris Diamond League meet. (Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)
Sprinter Andre De Grasse will not compete this week at the Canadian track and field championship in Langley, B.C. after testing positive for COVID-19 upon his return from France, where he ran a season-best time in the 200 metres on Saturday at the Meeting de Paris Diamond League meet. (Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)

Andre De Grasse and Damian Warner are among the latest Canadian Olympians to scratch this week's track and field nationals from their competition schedule.

De Grasse, the two-time Olympic triple medallist, will not run in the 100 and 200 metres in Langley, B.C., after testing positive for COVID-19 upon his return from France, where he ran a season-best 20.38 seconds in the 200 on Saturday at the Meeting de Paris Diamond League meet.

The sprinter from Markham, Ont., is home in Jacksonville, Fla., his agent Brian Levine confirmed to CBC Sports on Tuesday.

"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 to The Canadian Press. "Hopefully I can get back to training pretty quickly and prepare for the rest of the season."

De Grasse won the first Olympic gold medal of his career and first by a Canadian in the 200 since 1928 last summer, setting a national record time of 19.62 in Tokyo. He also picked up bronze in the 100 and silver in the 100 relay.

On June 16, the 27-year-old won his first Diamond League race of the season, taking the 100 in 10.05 — another season best — at the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway.

Dietmar Stiplovsek/APA/AFP/Getty Images
Dietmar Stiplovsek/APA/AFP/Getty Images

Warner, the world's top-ranked decathlete, withdrew from nationals on Monday with a sore knee that has hampered the London, Ont., native "off and on all year," according to his coach.

"We are not taking any chances," Gar Leyshon told CBC Sports. "We are just being cautious with [world championships less than] a month away. Worlds is a go."

De Grasse is also hopeful of returning for the July 15-24 event at Hayward Field 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.

Others not competing at nationals include distance runner Moh Ahmed and wheelchair racer Brent Lakatos, according to a list released Monday night by Athletics Canada.

"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 to The Canadian Press. "Athletics Canada expect all three to be healthy and ready by the time the world championships begin."

Ahmed has been nursing a calf issue since finishing fifth in the men's 5,000 at the Golden Gala Rome Diamond League event on June 9 and it didn't make sense to race in B.C. with the short turnaround, his agent Dan Lilot told CBC Sports.

"He had an MRI, and it appears to only be a muscle issue," Lilot added. "I don't think selection or participation for worlds will be affected."

Warner, who won his first Olympic gold medal last year, was registered for a few individual events but not the decathlon in Langley, where the competition begins Thursday at McLeod Athletics Park.

At less than full health, the 32-year-old claimed a sixth consecutive decathlon title in late May at the Hypo Meeting in Götzis, Austria.

WATCH | Warner rules decathlon for 6th Hypo Meeting title:

In March, he became a first-time world athletics indoor champion after beating Simon Ehammer of Switzerland by 126 points in the seven-event heptathlon in Belgrade, Serbia to raise his Canadian record to 6,489 points.

Warner won his first Olympic title last Aug. 5, amassing a Canadian and Games record 9,018 points on a steamy night in Tokyo.

Middle-distance runner Gabriela DeBues-Stafford of Toronto was forced to shut down her season last week because of a stress reaction in her sacrum, located below the lumbar spine and above the tailbone.

The 26-year-old felt discomfort during warmup ahead of a 800-metre race on June 6 and was forced to withdraw at the FBK Games in Hengelo, Netherlands.

DeBues-Stafford, who holds seven Canadian records between indoor and outdoor track, was hoping for a chance to improve on her sixth-place finish in the 1,500 from the 2019 world championships. She was fifth in the Olympic final in Tokyo.

Distance runner Justyn Knight (Achilles) and hurdler Sage Watson (back) will also not compete this week.

7th in Olympic debut

Knight, 25, has been hampered by injury since last summer.

"It's been getting better," the Toronto native told CBC Sports, "but not where [my coaches and I] want it to be so I won't be going to nationals."

Knight finished seventh in his Olympic debut in Tokyo, stopping the clock in 13:04.38 in the men's 5,000, more than 22 seconds faster than his 10th-place finish at the 2019 world championships.

Watson said she injured her back about six weeks before the 2020 Olympics and announced last week on Facebook she is stepping away from competition to "fully recover and give my body the break it needs and deserves."

The 28-year-old from Seven Persons, Alta., was 13th in the women's Olympic 400 hurdles last year.

"This year when I started hurdling the pain of the injury was still there and for months I tried to push through and get back healthy but this injury is now requiring me to take time off to fully recover," Watson said in a statement released by her agent, Claudia Cusano.

"I have been advised to not compete this summer and get back healthy and strong for the 2023 season and 2024 Olympic year. … Can't wait for the comeback season!"

Watson also anchored the Canadian Olympic women's 400 relay team to a fourth-place finish in 3:21.84, taking more than two seconds off the squad's previous 2021 best of 3:24.05 and coming within 63-100ths of a national record (3:21.21) that has stood for 37 years.

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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