De Grasse, who's recovering from COVID-19, upstart women's throwers among 10 to watch

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Canadian sprint star Andre De Grasse has climbed the medal podium in every one of his individual Olympic and world championship races, but the 27-year-old from Markham, Ont., faces one of his stiffest challenges in Eugene, Ore. At the other end of the spectrum, Sarah Mitton (shot put) and Camryn Rogers (hammer throw) could become Canada's first women to win world medals in their events.

Canada has 59 athletes, who've won 15 Olympic medals, at the world track and field championships which open Friday in the city known as "TrackTown USA." The team's goal is to top the six medals won at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Canada came home with five from the 2019 worlds in Doha, Qatar, and none in 2017 in London when a nasty norovirus ripped through the team.

Here are 10 athletes to watch:

Andre De Grasse (100, 200, 4x100-metre relay): De Grasse is a big-game player, producing podium results in all seven of his 100 and 200 races over two Olympics and two world championships. But he was slowed by a foot injury in the early season before finally rounding into form in early June, racing 10.05 to win in Oslo. Days later he contracted COVID-19 and hasn't raced since.

De Grasse is one of Canada's first athletes out of the gate, in the 100-metre heats on Friday. Americans Fred Kerley and Trayvon Bromell, who ran a sizzling 9.76 and 9.81 respectively at the U.S. trials on the same Hayward Field track are the favourites.

De Grasse said whether he has the strength for the 200, in which he's the reigning Olympic champ, will be a "game-time decision." American Noah Lyles has been gunning to reclaim world gold since his third place in Tokyo.

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Sarah Mitton (shot put): The 26-year-old from Brooklyn, N.S., unleashed a 20.33-metre throw at the Canadian championships, obliterating the national record she'd set only a month earlier. It was the world's longest throw of the season, but held up for only a day as American Chase Ealey threw 20.51 at the U.S. trials a day later. China's Song Jiayuan since took over the No. 2 spot with 20.38, dropping Mitton to third.

After throwing 18.89 last season, Mitton has soared up the standings, barely pausing in 19-metre territory. A medal would be Canada's first in women's shot put. Dylan Armstrong won world silver and bronze on the men's side.

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Moh Ahmed (5,000, 10,000): The 31-year-old from St. Catharines, Ont., is coming off a silver-medal performance in the 5,000 at the Tokyo Olympics. While he withdrew from the national championships last month with a minor injury, he showed early-season speed, breaking his own Canadian record in the 10,000 in March.

His 5,000 time is sixth fastest in the world, but the distance is stacked, featuring three Tokyo champions: Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda (5,000), Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway (1,500), and Selemon Barega of Ethiopia (10,000).

Ahmed, who was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, won world bronze in the 5,000 in 2019.

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Marco Arop (800): The 23-year-old from Edmonton has the third fastest time this season, the one minute 43.61 seconds he ran just over a week ago in Edmonton. He's keen to make up for his heartbreak at the Tokyo Olympics. After leading wire-to-wire to win his heat, he faded badly in his semi and didn't advance to the final.

Arop has become one of the most consistent medallists on the single-round Diamond League circuit, winning in Birmingham, England this season. He's learning to pace himself through the gruelling three rounds required at the Olympics world championships.

Arop, who's the reigning Pan American Games champ, and his family — he has five brothers — fled Khartoum, Sudan when he was two.

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Camryn Rogers (hammer throw): The 23-year-old from Richmond, B.C., became the first Canadian woman to compete in an Olympic hammer throw final, when she finished fifth in Tokyo. She was the youngest athlete in the field.

Now she hopes to do one better, and become Canada's first world medallist in the event.

Rogers also has fond memories of Hayward Field, winning her third NCAA title there last month, and crushing her own Canadian and U.S. collegiate records. Her throw of 77.67 is the fourth farthest in the world this season. The event is wide open after perennial champion Anita Wlodarczyk suffered an injury chasing a thief who had broken into her car. The 2019 world champion DeAnna Price withdrew after contracting COVID-19.

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Evan Dunfee (35km race walk): The 31-year-old from Richmond, B.C., won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics and '19 worlds in Doha, but it was over 50 kilometres, his preferred distance. Dunfee was passionate in lobbying World Athletics and the IOC to keep the 50K race, but it was dropped from the Olympic program.

Devastated by that decision, Dunfee said his mental health suffered in the months after Tokyo. He was seventh in Muscat in the World Athletics team championships in March, but had also been hampered by a hamstring injury. A solid 20K race at the Canadian championships showed he is returning to form at the right time.

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Cam Levins (marathon): The 33-year-old from Black Creek, B.C., was one of Canada's best distance runners on the track before his spectacular debut in the marathon — a Canadian record run in 2018 in Toronto. But the years since have been up and down. He failed at three attempts to run the Tokyo Olympic qualifying standard before hitting it with a week to spare.

At the Olympics, he chased the leaders in the early going, but faded to 72nd place in sizzling 34 C temperatures in Sapporo.

Levins, who won the Canadian half-marathon championships last month in 30 C heat, posted on social media that he's seeking redemption in Eugene.

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Alysha Newman (pole vault): The 27-year-old Commonwealth Games champ had her sights set on a medal in Tokyo, but still struggling from a concussion suffered in April when she felt in the tub, she missed at all three of her jumps at the Olympics. Her doctor ordered a break from pole vault, and over the winter months she trained for heptathlon events, completing a heptathlon a few weeks ago.

The cross-training left her stronger, she said, and she cleared 4.70 metres — sixth best in the world this season — in a meet last month in London, Ont.

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Django Lovett (high jump): The 30-year-old from Surrey, B.C., has climbed the global high jump rankings as Canada's heir apparent to world and Olympic champion Derek Drouin. Lovett, who was named for the late Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, was eighth in his Olympic debut in Tokyo. The 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist won the Birmingham Diamond League meet in May.

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Damian Warner (decathlon): Canada's Tokyo champion looks to close out the world championships with a bang. The 32-year-old from London, Ont., has won an Olympic and world indoor title, and six consecutive Hypo-Meeting titles in Gotzis, Austria, a global multi-events meet. But a world outdoor title has eluded him.

After sitting out the national championships with a nagging knee injury, Warner said he's feeling in top form, and he is the runaway favourite in Eugene. His lone decathlon this year in Gotzis in May however isn't the top score of the season. That belongs to American Garrett Scantling (8867). But Warner's 8797 was well off his 9,018 Olympic score that made him the fourth man in history to break the elusive 9,000-point barrier.

The decathlon is on the final two days, July 23-24.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2022.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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