Team Canada’s top five highlights of the 2010 IAAF World Junior Championships
This is the sixth of a series of articles revisiting the 2010 IAAF World Junior Championship in Moncton, NB, by Alex Cyr for Athletics New Brunswick.
It has been exactly ten years since the world’s best track and field athletes under the age of 20 gathered in Moncton and made thousands of fans spring from their seats in the then-brand new Medavie Croix Bleue Stadium.
The 2010 IAAF championship was deemed a success by athletes, coaches, fans and organizers. Team Canada’s strong performance added to the hype - its 59 athletes worked together to place an all-time high 12th overall out of 170 countries. In this 6th article, we revisit the highlights for Team Canada’s athletes during the week of July 19th to the 25th 2020.
Moh Ahmed showed early flashes of brilliance – Tuesday late evening, July 20
Earlier this month, Moh Ahmed of St. Catharines, Ontario, ran 5,000m in 12 minutes and 47 seconds (12:47.20), and became the tenth fastest man in world history. But on July 20, 2010, he was still years away from a breakthrough. In Moncton, Ahmed was 19, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, and Canada’s best hope at a medal in the 10,000m. On lap 10 of 25, in Moncton’s sweltering heat, Ahmed broke away from the race’s lead pack with three other athletes. Soon, however, he found himself chasing those three athletes and eventual medalists from a distance, and finished fourth in 29 minutes and 11 seconds. Still, Ahmed’s gutsy run and high placing convinced other Canadian athletes and fans that earning a medal was possible.
800m roommates pushed each other, improved at lightspeed – July 20 & 21
Half-milers Carly Paracholski and Annie Leblanc just missed out on a stacked 800m final, but their steadily-improving performances in the heats and semi-finals made them fan favourites. Paracholski, a 17-year-old athlete from Manitoba, roomed with the more experienced Leblanc, from Repentigny, QC. The two had become fast friends and, according to Team Canada distance coach Brent Fougner, they planned their race tactics together.
And it worked. Paracholski set a personal best of 2:06.70 in the preliminary round, and Leblanc also qualified with a time of 2:07:45. In the semis, Paracholski set a new Canadian youth record of 2:05.99, and Leblanc set a personal best of her own at 2:05.17. The pair almost qualified for a speedy final, which saw eventual American 800m record holder Ajee Wilson finished just fifth overall, and three full seconds behind Romania's Elena Mirela Lavric.
Taylor Stewart wins first Canadian medal. An honorable mention to our announcer from France – Wednesday evening, July 21
The long jumper from London, Ontario was Canada’s best bet for a first medal, and he entered the final round with confidence. His new personal best jump of 7.75 metres in the preliminary round ranked him ahead of the entire field, save for heavy favourite Luvo Manyonga of South Africa. But still, as Stewart prepared to make his medal-winning leap, the coverage had been entirely focused on the upcoming 100 metre final and young Jamaican sprinting star, Dexter Lee, who having captured gold two years earlier, was looking to repeat.
Upstairs in the announcer’s booth, Jean-Francois Raffalli a fervent believer in national pride and against strict orders, announced over the P.A. and to the entire stadium (and the CBC’s live feed!) that Canada’s Taylor Steward “currently in 4th place” was on the runway preparing for his sixth and final jump. The CBC crew who did not have a camera at long jump site “voiced” its distinct displeasure that echoed all around the booth.
On the field, Stewart would later state that as he put his hands above his head for the usual clapping encouragement, the resounding thunder of nearly 8,000 fans doing the same sent electricity right through his body. “I had to do a good jump, I just could not disappoint!”. And when his 7.63-metre clearing good for 3rd place appeared on the board, the stadium erupted. Shortly afterward Stewart draped himself with the red and white flag, wore it as a cape, and victory lapped around the stadium under a pink evening sky. As for our French announcer, there were smiles all around in the busy booth and even slaps on his back; His disobedience may well have helped create one of the most memorable moments of the 2010 championships.
Stewart landing in Stadium pit A well-earned medal being presented by Mike Powell, Triple Jump world record holder. Pictures; courtesy of The Times & Transcript.
Lalonde the Local places sixth in 3,000m Steeple Final – Thursday evening, July 22
Moncton native Geneviève Lalonde raised thousands of eyebrows when she finished second in heat 2 of the 3,000m steeplechase, setting a new national junior record of 10:03:88. Two days later, Lalonde’s fans, family members, friends and the premier of the Province, Shawn Graham, all scrambled to secure a seat in the Stadium to watch her build on that magical qualifying round. Lalonde did not disappoint. Dodging numerous raindrops, she finished sixth, and set a North American junior record of 9:57:74 in the process. Still today, she fondly remembers the race’s ending.
“What other international event can you finish and have the people closest to you waiting for you at the line?” she said.
Friday Night Lights Finally Shine on Aaron Brown – Friday, July 23
The young sprinter from Toronto, and today one of the premier sprinters in the world, had entered the competition as a medal hopeful. But after fading to fifth in the 100m final, his ability to deliver in crucial moments was being questioned. In the 200m heats, he cruised to a personal best time of 21.21 seconds. In the semi-final, he improved his time again to 21.12. Still, he was the slowest to make the final. On Friday night, despite his unfavourable delegation to the eighth lane – where a far stagger prevents runners from seeing their competitors - Brown delivered his best race of the championship. His clocking of 21.00 seconds earned him the bronze medal, and allowed him to edge out fourth place finisher and eventual 400m world record holder Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa by two hundredths of a second. It was Canada’s second of two bronze medals of the championship.
Aaron Brown post 200-meter final Cherishing his bronze medal. Pictures; courtesy of Times & Transcript.
In our next and final article, athletes, local coaches and members of the championship’s organizing committee reflect on how the championship has left a lasting impression on them and their community in Greater Moncton.
Cyr is a journalist from Prince Edward Island who has written for The Globe and Mail, The XC, and Canadian Running Magazine. His first book, Runners of the Nish, was published in 2018.