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Sports Canada's Melissa Bishop-Nriagu knocked out early in women's 800m heats

08:27  30 july  2021
08:27  30 july  2021 Source:   cbc.ca

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Melissa Bishop holding a football ball: Canada's Melissa Bishop-Nriagu was eliminated from contention in the women's 800 metres after placing fourth in her heat and 28th overall at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday in Japan. © Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters Canada's Melissa Bishop-Nriagu was eliminated from contention in the women's 800 metres after placing fourth in her heat and 28th overall at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday in Japan.

With a fourth-place finish on Friday in Tokyo, Canada's Melissa Bishop-Nriagu won't get the chance to avenge her Rio heartbreak.

The 32-year-old missed qualifying for the women's 800-metre semifinals with a time of two minutes 2.11 seconds, good for fourth in her heat.

Bishop-Nriagu was passed for third — and automatic qualification — in the final 100 metres, and held on to one of the six wild-card qualifying spots until three women passed her in the last of six heats. The Canadian wound up 28th overall. The semifinals, featuring 24 runners, are scheduled for Saturday in Tokyo.

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The Eganville, Ont., native owns the Canadian record in the distance at 1:57.02 and had a season-best of 1:58.36.

Five years ago, Bishop-Nriagu placed fourth at the Rio Olympics, missing a bronze medal by 13 one-hundredths of a second. Since then, she became a mom to daughter Corinne in 2018 and battled injury in 2019 before reaching Tokyo 2020.

She said having a child gave her new perspective.

"I think being a mom in pursuit of the Olympic podium holds more weight than before. I truly believe there is a tougher, stronger and fiercer woman in you when you become a mom and life becomes less about you, and more about your family," she told the Ottawa Sun in March 2020.

"I think if anything it has helped leave track at track and not be completely enthralled with it, whereas before I was living in this track bubble 24/7."

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Bishop-Nriagu also dealt with grief in the past year, when longtime coach Dennis Fairall died in Nov. 2020 after battling a rare degenerative brain disease.

"Dennis will always be with me. Dennis taught me so much about the sport and really got me to where I am today. Any success I have from this point forward is because of Dennis. And I know what he would say to me, lining up on that start line. As long as I keep that with me, I think we'll be okay. I know he's there," Bishop-Nriagu said shortly after Fairall's death.

Now, another fourth-place finish — this time much earlier in the process than in 2016 — will end Bishop-Nriagu's Olympics early.

Canada's Lindsey Butterworth (2:02.45) and Madeleine Kelly (2:02.39) also failed to qualify for the women's 800 semis.

Hughes, Gay advance

Meanwhile, a pair of Canadian men qualified for the 3,000-metre steeplechase.

Looking to build on his 10th-place finish from Rio, 31-year-old Matthew Hughes ran a season-best 8:13.56, the seventh fastest time of the day. The Oshawa, Ont., native went out slowly in the first kilometre before ultimately finishing fourth in his heat.

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Olympic rookie John Gay also started out his Games strongly, putting together a personal-best 8:16.99. Gay, 24 of Kelowna, B.C., employed the same strategy as Hughes, with a slow start aided by a strong finish.

The top three racers in each of three heats, plus the next six fastest runners, qualified for the final on Aug. 2.

Ethiopia's Lamecha Girma finished nine-tenths of a second ahead of Japan's Ryuji Miura at 8:09.83 in the opening heat to record the fastest qualifying time.

Split results in high jump

Canada saw mixed results in men's high jump, as 29-year-old Django Lovett reached the final while Michael Mason, competing in his fourth Olympics, was eliminated.

All 13 qualifiers, including Lovett, cleared 2.28 metres. Mason missed all three attempts at the height, topping out at 2.25 metres.

Lovett, a 29-year-old in his first Olympics, is ranked 14th worldwide in the event, though he secured a second-place Diamond League finish earlier this month.

Mason reached the high-jump final in 2021, placing eighth, while taking top-20 finishes in each of his other Games. The 34-year-old from New Westminster, B.C., acted as a mentor for Lovett early in the latter's career, until became clear Lovett was more competition than apprentice.

In Tokyo, he may have to resume those coaching duties once again as he watches Lovett jump for the Olympic podium.

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