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Emmanuel first Canadian woman in 33 years to advance to 200 final at worlds


LONDON — Crystal Emmanuel looked fierce, like a fired-up boxer about to climb into the ring.

Then she raced into the women's 200-metre final at the world track and field championships, a place no Canadian woman has gone in 33 years.

The 25-year-old from Toronto ran 22.85 seconds to finish third in her semifinal and clinch a spot in Friday's final — a first for a Canadian woman in the distance since Angela Bailey in 1983.

When the television camera panned the field for her 200-metre semifinal, it caught the Canadian talking to herself. She was repeating her mantra: "Beast. Just me." 

"I looked down the track and all I saw was 'beast,' and that was me," Emmanuel said.

It was a night that might have belonged to Andre De Grasse. Turkey's Ramil Guliyev won gold in a men's 200 metre final missing the Canadian star, who pulled out before the meet with a torn hamstring. Canadian teammate Aaron Brown was disqualified in the 200 heats from stepping on the line.

Led by Emmanuel, three Canadian women wrote the story Thursday night at London Stadium.

World silver medallist Melissa Bishop survived a scare to advance to the semifinals of the 800 metres. The 29-year-old from Eganville, Ont., was clipped from behind, and nearly fell — the shock of moment registering on her face. She went on to finish second in two minutes 1.11 seconds.

"Really scary. I felt like I was going down on my knees, but I caught it," Bishop said of the stumble that happened 300 metres into the race. "But that's 800-metre racing, there are eight of us in one lane, it's messy, it's bumper cars.

Bishop credited American Brenda Martinez for reaching out a steadying arm as Bishop stumbled, averting what could have been a disaster not just for the Canadian but others in the race.

Bishop nearly stumbled again at the 400-metre mark when Spain's Esther Guerrero cut her off.

"She cut in a lot sooner than she thought she was clear, I put my hand on her back to know that I was there," Bishop.

Clipped heels and thrown elbows are common in middle and long-distance races with runners jostling for position all in the same lane.

Bishop, who ran 1:57.01 to break her own Canadian record a couple of weeks ago in Monaco, said recovering for a near-calamity is more mental that physical.

"It's just keeping calm, and saying 'OK, I didn't go down, I'm safe, let's just keep rolling,'"

Sage Watson of Medicine Hat, Alta., raced to sixth in her first major 400-metre hurdles final. The 23-year-old, who won the NCAA title in June with the Arizona Wildcats, ran hard through 300 metres before fading down the stretch, crossing in 54.92.

"I just went for it, you have to push yourself and see what you can do, and I definitely did that tonight," Watson said. "I would have liked to have run a personal best and obviously have gotten a medal, but it's my first time in a world championship final at this level, so it's only up from here."

American Kori Carter ran 53.07 to win gold.

The Canadian team, hit hard by injuries and illness, remains without a medal. The three sixth-place finishes — Watson, Brittany Crew in women's shot put, and Matt Hughes in the 3,000-metre steeplechase — are the team's top results. It's a far cry from the record-eight medals the team won two years ago in Beijing. The Canadian team captured six medals last summer at the Rio Olympics.

The five-foot-six Emmanuel, meanwhile, has been enjoying a career season, breaking Marita Payne-Wiggins' 34-year-old Canadian record in the 200 last month.

She'd spoken to her mom Rosalind, who ran internationally for Barbados, on Wednesday.

"She said as always, 'You're great. When you wake up in the morning, you just say I'm great, and greatness will come,'" Emmanuel said.

Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands and Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas both ran 22.49, the fastest 200 time of the night. 

Bishop's event is sure to be one of the most contentious of the meet, as it was in Rio, where the Canadian was left heartbroken after her fourth-place finish.

Caster Semenya of South Africa, who won bronze in the 1,500 metres on Monday, is at the centre of a dispute over whether females with excessive testosterone should be permitted to compete.

In 2011, the IAAF instituted restrictions on athletes with hyperandrogenism, but a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned it. The world governing body is appealing again, based on a recent scientific paper that found women who produce higher-than-normal amounts of testosterone have up to a 4.5 per cent advantage over their competition. A decision is expected to come next year.

Semenya won her heat Thursday in 2:01.33. Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi ran 1:59.86 for the fastest time on the night.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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