Caanada's 4x4 problem

Relay delay costly for Canada
Sloppy handoff to anchor of men’s 4x400 team may ruin bid to qualify for this summer’s Pan American Games

Gary Kingston, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, June 09, 2007

A sloppy handoff on the final leg Friday night cost the Canadian men’s 4x400 relay team a good chance at qualifying for this summer’s Pan American Games in Brazil.

Now, they’re hoping that the brass at Athletics Canada allows them to effectively wipe the mess clean.

The Canadian team needed to go under 3:03.48 at the Harry Jerome International Track Classic at Swangard Stadium to punch their ticket to Rio de Janeiro. But when anchor runner Tyler Christopher nearly dropped the handoff from Adam Kunkel, not even Christopher’s blazing split of 44.5 could get the squad the time they needed.

Tyler Christopher (left) has trouble handling the baton in a botched exchange Friday night at Swangard Stadium.
Richard Lam/Vancouver Sun

“That’s the first time ever I’ve messed up a handful,” said a disappointed Christopher, still breathing heavy a couple of minutes after the run. “Missed it, that definitely cost us a half a second. But it was a solid effort, so hopefully they’ll be kind to us.”

He was referring to Athletics Canada boss Les Gramatik and head coach Martin Goulet, who will be asked to consider allowing the squad, which was hoping to use the Pan Ams as a springboard to the world championships, to head to Brazil anyway. Currently, only Christopher, the 2005 world championship bronze medallist in the 400 metres, has qualified individually for the Pan Ams.

Despite the handoff miscue, relay coach Derek Evely said it was a solid effort.

“That was as great an effort as I’ve seen ever since I’ve been working with these guys,” said Evely. "The one little accident sort of did it in for them. But we’re going to take it to the powers that be and see what we can we do about it.

“I think it’s an exceptional circumstance. With the talent we have right now and the way everybody’s running, how can we not take this team.”

Evely said Christopher was so anxious to “bust a huge one” that he got excited on the handoff, turned before he had the baton in his hands “and that’s all it takes sometimes.”

Meantime, the women’s 4x400 relay team also failed to make the Pan Ams standard, their time of 3:36.67 well off the 3:29.90 that was required. Two days earlier, key team member Adrienne Power of Halifax had to pull out with a severely infected finger after she was bit by her cat.

“I thought they had a shot, but it was a tall order for them,” said Evely.

One of the highlight performances of the night came in the men’s shotput where Dylan Armstrong, 26, of Kamloops, one of the top young throwers in the world, set a personal best with a throw of 20.72 metres. That’s believed to put him in the top five so far this outdoor season.

“I’m happy. I was expecting a little bit more, but I think I can do that in the next two weeks,” said Armstrong, who had a throw of 20.60 in Victoria on Wednesday. “I was happy with the series and that was the goal this year, to stay consistently over 20 metres and I’ve achieved that so far.”

Armstrong, who went to the University of Texas for one year, has been training in Kamloops under noted Russian coach Dr. Anatoli Bodnarchuk, who has coached several Olympic champions in shotput, hammer and discuss and was working as throws coach in Kuwait before coming to B.C.