Aaron Brown captures his 1st Diamond League 100-metre race

Aaron Brown

A late addition to the men’s 100-metre field, Toronto sprinter Aaron Brown came on strong near the finish line to win his first-ever Diamond League race in the distance on Saturday in England.

Brown ran 10.13 seconds into a slight headwind at Alexander Stadium after American Trayvon Bromell and reigning European champion Zharnel Hughes of Great Britain were disqualified for false starts.

Jamaica’s Yohan Blake was second in 10.18 at the Müller Birmingham meet, followed by his cousin Jerome Blake (10.20) and the latter’s Canadian teammate Andre De Grasse (10.24).

“False starts happen and I’ve been in races like that before, so I just focus on my cues and wait for the [start] gun,” Brown, who clocked 10.23 earlier in the day in a “B” race, told CBC Sports. “I knew people would be apprehensive after the false starts so I just told myself to still go for it like nothing happened and I should get a good start.”

The Canadian sprinter topped the podium ahead of countrymen Jerome Blake and Andre De Grasse, who finished third and fourth respectively.

Brown, who replaced injured Marvin Bracy of the United States, changed his approach entering the outdoor season and wanted to run more 100s and fewer 200s — his signature event — to find a better balance and keep his body “feeling fresh” ahead of the July 15-24 world championships in Eugene, Ore.

Saturday’s race was his fourth 100 of 2022, matching his total for last season, while he’s taken the line twice this season in the 200.

“I’ve put a lot of work in the 100 and I know I’m a rhythm runner,” he said, “so the more I race the better I’ll be. … I’m so pleased with how [it’s] played out so far.”

Brown’s previous best showing in a Diamond League 100 was third (10.07) on July 5, 2019 in Lausanne, Switzerland. He was also fifth last July in Stockholm (10.18) on the heels of a third consecutive Canadian title.

The three-time Olympian opened the Diamond League season a week ago in the 200 in Doha, Qatar, placing fifth after finishing fourth in the 2021 Diamond League Final and sixth in the 2020 Olympic final in Tokyo.

Later Saturday, Brendon Rodney, Brown, Blake and De Grasse posted a winning time of 38.31 seconds in the men’s 4×100 relay — a non-Diamond League points race — over France (38.41) and Great Britain (38.66).

Saturday’s relay event was the first time the Canadian men had shared the track in nine months since crossing the finish line third at the Olympics in Tokyo. They were rained out at the Florida Relays in early April.

Earlier this week, Brown said he believed they could run under 38 seconds in Birmingham with clean handoffs, the team’s downfall and “the difference between bronze and gold” in the Olympic final when Italy clocked 37.70 ahead of Great Britain (37.51).

“Relay was a solid effort overall [on Saturday],” said Brown, who ran the first leg. “I actually cramped really bad before the race, with the relay being my third of the day. I thought it may dissipate by the time we raced but it actually picked up, so I suspect my run wasn’t as strong as it could’ve been. The rest of the team did well to get the win.”

On Thursday, the International Olympic Committee rubber-stamped Brown and company’s Olympic upgrade to silver following a meeting of the executive board. Great Britain was disqualified following CJ Ujah’s doping violation.

It’s been a slow start to the Diamond League campaign in the individual events for De Grasse, who looked strong in anchoring Canada to its relay victory.

He was also fourth in Doha in the 200, the event in which the Markham, Ont., athlete earned his lone Olympic gold over two Summer Games, last year in Japan. But the man with six Olympic medals has a knack for shining on the track when it matters most.

“I feel that I’m getting back in shape,” De Grasse said a week ago. “My goal for the world championships [in Oregon in July] is to get a medal.”