Poor start in Morocco costs sprinter Jerome Blake chance at 2nd straight 200m win

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Canada's Jerome Blake, pictured during his winning 200-metre run earlier this week in Ostrava, Czech Republic, struggled out of the start blocks in Sunday's race and finished fifth in 20.74 seconds in Diamond League action in Rabat, Morocco. (David W Cerny/Reuters - image credit)
Canada's Jerome Blake, pictured during his winning 200-metre run earlier this week in Ostrava, Czech Republic, struggled out of the start blocks in Sunday's race and finished fifth in 20.74 seconds in Diamond League action in Rabat, Morocco. (David W Cerny/Reuters - image credit)

Earlier this season, Jerome Blake talked about focusing on executing his own race and running consistently on the track.

The Canadian opened his 200-metre outdoor season with fourth-place finish on April 16 in a personal-best 20.04 seconds at the USATF Golden Games in California. A 20.25 effort followed a month later at the Diamond League season opener before Blake won earlier this week at the Ostrava Golden Spike in 20.14.

In Sunday's Diamond League race following a false start by Isaac Makwala of Botswana — who was allowed to remain in the race — Blake struggled out of the starting blocks and didn't appear relaxed in the deceleration phase, crossing the finish in 20.74 for fifth place in Rabat, Morocco.

"I'm a lot stronger [than last year] and comfortable in my upright running," the 26-year-old told CBC Sports recently. "My biggest worry is getting a good start, push away from the blocks and [rely] on my technique.

"I'm still working on technical things in the first 10 or 20 metres and trying to wrap my head around and trust what I've done to make sure it works."

WATCH | Kenny Bednarek captures men's 200 metres in Rabat:

Last season, Blake's first under coach Dennis Mitchell at Star Athletics in Florida after his move from B.C., the Kelowna native put too many expectations and pressure on himself but opened this campaign living up to the potential he showed and more confident in his abilities.

"His issue was his start [out of the blocks] and transitioning [to top-end speed," said Aaron Brown, Blake's training partner and Canadian relay teammate. "He's worked a lot in practice with Dennis to improve and still has a lot of room for growth. I feel his top-end speed is world class.

"You have to believe you're going to come out on top [on race day] because it's a dog-eat-dog world and you have to have that bravado and believe in yourself."

Sunday marked the first outdoor 200 race of the season for American Kenny Bednarek, who won in 20.21 at the Mohammed VI International Athletics Meeting over South Africa's Luxolo Adams (20.35) and Italy's Eseosa (Fausto) Desalu (20.54).

Bednarek, the 2021 Diamond League Trophy winner, boasts a 19.68 PB from his silver medal effort in last year's Olympic final.

Altered running approach

Will Paulson was the other Canadian competing in Rabat, where he placed 11th of 15 finishers in his first Diamond League 1,500. The 27-year-old's time of three minutes 38.23 seconds was nearly five seconds shy of his 3:33.97 season and personal best form April that fell under the 3:35 automatic qualifying standard for the world championships next month in Eugene, Ore.

A year ago, the Canadian-British citizen fell 42-100ths of a second short of the identical standard for the Tokyo Olympics, but Paulson changed his approach to running for 2022 to having fun and giving his best rather than trying to chase a specific time.

Paulson sat fifth behind a pacesetter through 700 metres on Sunday and sixth at the 1,100 mark. It was a 1-2 finish for Great Britain, with Jake Wightman (3:32.62) beating Jake Heyward (3.33.54) to the line. Abdelatif Sadiki was third (3:33.93) in front of the home crowd at the Prince Moulay Abdellah sports complex.

Diamond League action resumes June 9 from the Golden Gala in Rome and can be streamed live on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem starting at 2 p.m. ET.

WATCH | Thompson-Herah lowers her own 100-metre meet record:

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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