Hard-luck Aaron Brown eyes sub-20 seconds to end season

A deflated Aaron Brown stands near the finish line at London Stadium, having hit rock bottom after being disqualified for a lane violation.

The 20.08-second performance would have qualified him for the men’s 200-metre final at the recent world championships, but instead was the latest incident in a season of misfortune for the Toronto native.

  • On April 23, Brown and his 4×100 relay teammates were disqualified from the final at world relays in the Bahamas for dropping the baton during an exchange between Brendon Rodney and Brown.
  • At the Canadian championships in July, Brown was disqualified for a false start in his semifinal.

On Aug. 7, the 25-year-old put on a brave face, smiling as he walked through the media interview area, but Brown desperately wanted to leave England and fly home to “regroup.” He didn’t watch track “for the next couple of days,” but persevered, joining Mobolade Ajomale, Gavin Smellie and Rodney to place sixth in the 4×100 five days after his disqualification.

“It was one of the lowest points in my career. I felt defeated. You have to let it soak in and feel a lot of the hurt, the pain,” Brown told CBC Sports earlier this week of battling adversity. “You have to go through that period of melancholy but can’t let it linger because there are so many other opportunities when you’re in the middle of your career.”

Brown noted he would have redemption on his mind Friday when running the 200 at the AG Memorial Van Damme in Brussels (CBCSports.ca, 2 p.m. ET), where the Diamond League Trophy will be awarded to the winner of each of the 16 events along with $ 50,000 US.

Pole vaulter Alysha Newman is the only other Canadian competing. The London, Ont., native improved on her national record last Sunday with a jump of 4.75 metres at the 19th International Pole Vault Meeting in Beckum, Germany.

Distance runner Brandon McBride of Windsor, Ont., qualified sixth in the men’s 800 for Brussels but chose to call it a season following a fourth-place finish (1:45.39) at last week’s Diamond League event in Birmingham, England, saying the recent world championships left him mentally and emotionally exhausted.

McBride, 23, had a consistent 2017 highlighted by his victory at the Canadian championships (1:45.23) and season-best 1:44.41 at Diamond League Monaco to inch closer to Gary Reed’s national record of 1:43.68.

Meanwhile, Brown entered the Diamond League meet in Birmingham two weeks after worlds tied for 10th place in the qualification standings for the season finale in Belgium, with the top eight securing a berth.

He finished third and climbed to fourth in the standings after clocking a season-best 20.30, a time the Canadian believed could have been much lower had he not been running in Lane 1, commonly referred to as the “death lane” by sprinters.

Brown has drawn Lane 4 on a King Baudouin Stadium track conducive to fast times, and is confident of running under 20 seconds in Brussels and topping a strong field that includes 2017 world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey (Lane 5), Americans Ameer Webb (Lane 6) and Noah Lyles, (Lane 9) and Christophe Lemaitre (Lane 8), both of France.

“Aaron Brown has the capability and talent to win this race, so I’m hoping he does,” CBC Sports analyst Donovan Bailey said.

Brown said his “body feels great” and his legs fresh from missing the world final and taking time earlier in the season to recover from a Grade 2 strain of his left quadriceps muscle that didn’t fully heal until June.

“I’m going in with the slowest season best but I’ve beaten a lot of these people,” he said. “I just have confidence I can make things happen.”

At the 2016 Canadian Olympic trials in Edmonton, Brown set a personal best of 19.96 to join Andre De Grasse as the only Canadian men to break the 20-second barrier.

“Where Aaron should be now is where Andre [De Grasse] is,” Bailey said. “Aaron should be a 19.90 or 19.80 [second] guy and dipping under that in big races.

“He certainly has great speed endurance, but he absolutely has to run the corner harder than he has [this season] in order to dip under 20 seconds more consistently.”

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