There are no big names in the bunch, especially compared to Jamaica’s stacked crew, but Athletics Canada still believes its men’s 4x100 relay team has a shot at the podium.
Everything will have to be exactly right for them to find a way into bronze behind the Jamaicans and Americans, but as Beijing proved, there’s always the chance of a false start or baton drop knocking off a top team or two.
Canada’s four runners will take part in one of two semi-finals on Friday night in London in one of the final track and field events of the Games.
The team will consist of Gavin Smellie as lead, Seyi Smith at second, Jared Connaughton third and Justyn Warner – who ran a 10.09 semi-final in the individual event – as the anchor.
The group is coached by Glenroy Gilbert, who famously won gold with Canada’s stacked 4x100 relay team (with Robert Esmie, Bruny Surin and Donovan Bailey) at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
“I think they’re going to have a real strong showing,” Athletics Canada head coach Alex Gardiner said this week. “We’re really pleased with their preparation. We’re excited to see that first round and then let the final play out.
“It’s tough, let’s face it, you’ve got that Jamaica team, the U.S. team and the Trinidad and Tobago team all have at least two runners going under 10-flat. That’s going to be a spectacular race.”
In Beijing, Canada’s relatively no-name relay team made the final, finishing sixth with a time of 38.66 seconds, only 0.51 off the podium. Because the U.S. was eliminated in the heats, third place was wide open and ultimately contested by Japan and Brazil – countries not exactly known for their sprinting process.
Connaughton, 27, is the only returning member of that team.
The new group has a season best time of 38.43 seconds, which is fifth out of 16 countries competing, behind only Jamaica, the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands.
Canada will face Jamaica in its heat but will be more concerned with finishing ahead of at least two of the Netherlands, Brazil, China and Great Britain in order to make Saturday’s final. (St. Kitts and Nevis and Italy are also in their heat.)
“The men’s relay is different than the world championship because there’s only 16 teams,” Gardiner said. “It’s way more forgiving to get to the final.”