By GARY KINGSTON
Lucas Bruchet is older, wiser and faster. Five years on from his first Olympic go-round, the 5,000-metre runner from Vancouver is hoping that means a better showing at the Tokyo Games this July.
Bruchet put himself in a terrific position to qualify for Tokyo winning his event in 13 minutes, 12.56 seconds at the Harry Jerome Track Classic on Saturday night, smashing his personal best by 10 seconds and sliding in under the qualifying standard of 13:13.50.
“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life and I proved that last night,” the 30-year-old said in an interview Sunday morning. “A couple of weeks ago I had a small personal best and I came away thinking I’ve still got a few more seconds in the tank. I got to 4K in good shape and thought ‘OK, let’s see what’s left.’
He had easily pulled away from the field, with Tyler Dozzi finishing second in 14:06.48, just ahead of Nikolas Colyn in 14:06.95.
“I surprised myself a little and surprised my coach,” said Bruchet. “I guess I got the job done.”
He’s the third Canadian after Mohammed Ahmed (12:50.12 in Firenze, Italy on Thursday) and Justyn Knight (12:51.93, also at Firenze) to go under the Olympic standard. Bruchet’s time was also the 29th fastest in the world this season.
Canada can send three 5,000-metre runners to Tokyo and the only way Bruchet could be knocked out of a spot is if someone goes lower than his time at nationals in Montreal June 24-27.
“If somebody can do that and they win, they probably deserve the spot.”
But Bruchet would relish the opportunity to compete at Tokyo. At Rio de Janeiro in 2016, he was one of the last to get in and ranked 51st of the 52 competitors. He failed to qualify for finals, officially finishing 37th.
“It was a great learning experience for me. I was young and everything seemed to happen so fast. It was eye-opening to go to (the national team) training camp and see what some of the athletes were doing. It gave me a better understanding of what’s required at that level.
“I think qualifying for the finals this time is a realistic goal, hopefully be one of three Canadians in the final. Mo and Justyn keep raising the bar and doing unbelievable things. And it’s not just them. Canadian distance running as a whole has never been this good. I just want to be a part of it.”
In other events at the Jerome, Regan Yee of Hazelton and Lindsey Butterworth of North Vancouver won the women’s 3,000-metre steeplechase and the women’s 800 metres, respectively, although both narrowly missed hitting the Olympic standard.
Lindsey Butterworth won her event in 2:01.53, two seconds off the Olympic standard of 1:59.50.
“I’ve been in this place since 2018 now, running these times,” said a frustrated Butterworth, who three times this spring has run under 2:01.00. “I know it’s there. I know it’s coming. It’s about patience at this point.
“The pace was good tonight. I maybe could have been a bit more aggressive in the first lap. We’re still moving in the right direction, but antsy to get there.”
Butterworth will have a couple more opportunities to get the standard this month -- Wednesday at a meet in Guelph, Ont., and at nationals. Even if she doesn’t get the standard, her results this season put her in a good position to get to Tokyo through the ranking points quota.
Yee chopped five seconds off her personal best to win in a time of 9:31.07, passing training partner Alycia Butterworth late and then holding the North Vancouver runner off down the stretch. Butterworth, who was timed in 9:31.27, took nine seconds off her personal best and both finished ahead of Canadian record holder Genevieve Lalonde, who recorded a 9:40.62.
“I tend to do that, I leave it a little too late and make the finishes pretty exciting,” said a laughing Yee after the evening race.
The Olympic standard is 9:30.00, which Lalonde has achieved. But Yee can get in through the World Athletics ranking points quota. The field will be 45 for Tokyo and Yee is currently sitting 44th with two weeks to go until the June 29 cut off.
“There’s still a lot of girls running fast in Canada, so I still have some work to do before I can think about Tokyo,” said Yee, who will next race at nationals. “I’m going to have to do pretty much the same thing I did tonight, hang with the girls and be there in the last 200 metres.”