Canada claims bronze in 4x100 relay

Team anchored by Andre De Grasse breaks a 20 year old national record

Canada's Andre De Grasse, left to right, Brendon Rodney and Aaron Brown watch the scoreboard following the men's 4x100-metre relay final at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Friday, August 19, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Andre De Grasse, left to right, Brendon Rodney and Aaron Brown watch the scoreboard following the men’s 4×100-metre relay final. (Frank Gunn, CP)

RIO DE JANEIRO — Andre De Grasse picked up his third medal of the Rio Olympics as Canada’s 4×100-metre relay team won the bronze medal Friday in a Canadian-record time.

De Grasse teamed with Akeem Haynes of Calgary, Brendon Rodney of Brampton, Ont., and Aaron Brown of Toronto to finish in 37.64 seconds, breaking the mark of 37.69 set by the gold-medal winning team anchored by Donovan Bailey at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

De Grasse, the star sprinter from Markham, Ont., ran a blistering anchor leg, but it looked like Canada was going to have to settle for a fourth-place finish before the United States was disqualified on an illegal baton exchange.

De Grasse also picked up a silver medal in the men’s 200 metres and a bronze in the marquee 100 metres in Rio.

It’s redemption for Canada, which appeared to have won bronze in the 4×100 at the London Games before being disqualified for a lane violation.

Jamaica finished first in 37.27 seconds, giving superstar Usain Bolt his ninth Olympic gold medal. Japan was second in 37.60.

It was the sixth medal for a Canadian track and field team that won just one — Derek Drouin’s high jump bronze— four years ago in London.

Canada was looking to make up for the misery of the 2012 London Olympics, where Gavin Smellie, Oluseyi Smith, Jared Connaughton and Justyn Warner went from elated to inconsolable in the span of a few minutes. The four thought they’d won bronze, before a lane judge ruled Connaughton had stepped on the line.

Canada has had relay glory snatched out of its hands several times of late. The team was disqualified at both the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2015 relay championships. They celebrated victory at last summer’s Pan American Games in Toronto before an official ruled Smellie had stepped on the line. That disqualification spoiled what would have been a triple gold-medal Games for De Grasse.

The Canadians did catch a break at the 2015 IAAF World Championships, however, winning bronze when the Americans were again disqualified for an illegal baton change.

Running without De Grasse in Thursday’s heats, the Canadians blazed through to the final in a time of 37.89 _ second fastest in Canadian history. Mobolade Ajomale ran the anchor leg before stepping aside for De Grasse for Friday’s final.

It was 20 years ago that Canada’s relay team was golden in Atlanta, beating the ballyhooed U.S. squad in one of the most enduring moments of those Games.

Robert Esmie, with the word “Blastoff” shaved into his hair, handed off to Glenroy Gilbert, to Bruny Surin and finally to Bailey — a week after he’d run to 100-metre gold — who anchored the squad to a Canadian record of 37.69.

Canada’s only other relay medal was bronze in 1984 in Los Angeles.

Earlier Friday, Evan Dunfee of Richmond, B.C., rode a roller-coaster of emotions, going from fourth to bronze back to fourth in a couple of hours after a gutsy 50-kilometre race walk. Dunfee finished fourth before Japanese runner Hirooki Arai was disqualified for bumping the Canadian on the final lap of the race. Japan protested and won, bumping Dunfee back to bronze.

Kelsie Ahbe of Toronto cleared 4.50 metres in pole vault to finish 12th.

Carline Muir of Toronto, Alicia Brown of Ottawa, Noelle Montcalm of Belle River, Ont., and Sage Watson of Medicine Hat, Alta., became Canada’s first women’s 4×400 relay to qualify for the final since 1992.

Farah Jacques of Gatineau, Que., Toronto’s Crystal Emmanuel, Phylicia George of Markham, Ont., and Khamica Bingham of Brampton, Ont., finished seventh in the women’s 4×100 relay in 43.15.

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