Sage Watson threatens 2021 world-leading time in 400-metre hurdles season debut

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Canada's Sage Watson opened her outdoor season in the women's 400-metre hurdles on Saturday, posting a winning time of 55.93 seconds at the West Coast Classic in Tucson, Ariz. The time ranks fourth in the world this season. (Twitter/@ArizonaTrack - image credit)
Canada's Sage Watson opened her outdoor season in the women's 400-metre hurdles on Saturday, posting a winning time of 55.93 seconds at the West Coast Classic in Tucson, Ariz. The time ranks fourth in the world this season. (Twitter/@ArizonaTrack - image credit)

Sage Watson, who wants to lower her Canadian-record time in the women's 400-metre hurdles, is off to a good start.

The University of Arizona alumnus opened her outdoor season in the event on Saturday, posting a winning time of 55.93 seconds in Tucson at the West Coast Classic, a meet co-hosted by the school.

The time ranks fourth in the world this year, 35-100ths of a second behind leader Wenda Nel of South Africa, who ran 55.58 on April 15.

Watson, 26, clocked a 54.32 personal best on Oct. 2, 2019 in the semifinals of the track and field world championships in Doha, Qatar, to break Rosey Edeh's 23-year national mark.

WATCH |Sage Watson breaks 23-year-old Canadian record:

"This past year, I've been thinking of how low I can get this record. That's my main goal," Watson told CBC Sports last August.

"I think, for sure, I'll be able to run 53 seconds. I don't know when that'll be but I'm definitely capable of that. I think 52-high is possible, too. It's a matter of continuing to stay healthy, staying on top of my training and making sure I'm getting in good competitions."

Shaves time off 400m performance

Watson, in an abbreviated 2020 campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic, ran 56.29 for a third-place finish in her outdoor season debut last Aug. 19 in Hungary.

Four days later, the 26-year-old native of Medicine Hat, Alta., crossed the line in 56.31 at a Diamond League meet in Stockholm before calling it a season to rest and resume training for the Tokyo Olympics, which was postponed in March 2020 to this July.

WATCH | Watson 3rd across finish line in Hungary:

A week ago, Watson won the women's 400 in 52.25 at the Jim Click Shootout in Tucson, more than a second faster than she ran a month earlier. Next month, Watson will compete at the World Athletics Relays in Poland in the quest for an Olympic berth.

Looking to Tokyo, Watson said she'll be more focused on the task at hand than during her 2016 Olympic debut in Rio, where she was fourth in her semifinal heat in hurdles but failed to make the final, placing 11th overall.

"I was still a college student and had never experienced the [Diamond League] pro circuit and what it was like to travel," said Watson, a volunteer coach with the U. of Arizona track team who returned to the school last July to work with coach Fred Harvey. "I think I'm going to be more confident on the track [in Tokyo]. I've started to learn what I'm capable of and that comes from knowing your body.

"I feel more grown up and ready. I also know what it takes to make a final. I've made the past two world championship finals [in 2017 and 2019] and those are kind of equally as hard as making the Olympic final."

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