TRACK AND FIELD: CANADA
Sprinter Christopher withdraws from Commonwealth Games
Nagging hamstring injury will keep Chilliwack native from Melbourne event
Sprinter Tyler Christopher and hurdler Perdita Felicien will not race at the Commonwealth Games next month, leaving the Canadian track and field team without two of its biggest stars.
Christopher’s coach, Kevin Tyler, says the decision came down to timing. The Commonwealth Games will run from March 15 to 26, when the Canadian outdoor track season has yet to begin.
“We’ve been debating this for a while,” Tyler said from their Edmonton training base. “The timing is just not the best in terms of long-term preparation.”
Tyler said their focus is on the Beijing Olympics of 2008. With the travel, a nagging hamstring problem that requires careful attention and having to perform so early in the season, the Commonwealth Games would only throw them off their lofty goals for Beijing.
“I think Tyler will be in the position to contest for the gold medal [in Beijing],” Tyler said.
The 22-year-old Christopher, from Chilliwack, B.C., would have been a favourite for gold at the Commonwealth Games. He won the bronze in the 400 metres at the world championships in Helsinki last summer and is only getting faster, recently lowering the Canadian indoor 300 metres record at the Cargill Games in Winnipeg.
Felicien, of Pickering, Ont., is skipping the Games after missing most of the fall with injuries.
Christopher and Felicien are the only two major stars missing from an otherwise strong Canadian Commonwealth Games team announced yesterday.
Wheelchair racing star Chantal Petitclerc of Montreal, veteran middle-distance runner Kevin Sullivan of Brantford, Ont., and high jumper Mark Boswell of Brampton, Ont., will lead the 43-member squad in Melbourne, Australia.
With nine medalists back from four years ago in Manchester, England, Canada hopes to surpass the 12 medals it won at those Games.
Boswell won gold four years ago in Manchester and is a world championship bronze medalist.
Sullivan is on pace for a good showing in Melbourne after lowering his Canadian indoor 3,000 metres record last weekend at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark.
Strong performances are also expected from Gary Reed of Kamloops, a finalist in the 800 metres at the world championships, Olympic hurdles finalist Charles Allen of Brampton, Ont., and veteran discus thrower Jason Tunks of London, Ont.
Carmen-Douma Hussar of Cambridge, Ont., the world indoor silver medalist for the 1,500 metres, headlines a strong women’s team that includes pole vaulter Dana Ellis of Cambridge, Ont., who finished fifth at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and hurdler Angela Whyte of Edmonton, who was sixth in Athens.
Les Gramantik of Calgary is the team’s head coach. Track and field will get under way at the Games on March 19.