Hours following his spectacular season-ending performance Thursday evening on the track at the Diamond League Final in Zurich, Aaron Brown talked about his soaring confidence.
It began to grow, the veteran Canadian sprinter said, late in the season when he was competitive with 18-year-old phenom Erriyon Knighton and his American teammate Marvin Bracy, who were world championship medallists in July.
Brown finished second to Knighton in the 100 metres in Lucerne, Switzerland, and earlier in August in a 200 race in Hungary while placing third behind Knighton at Diamond League Brussels on Sept. 2. Two days later, he won the 100 in Padova, Italy, edging Bracy by 1-100th of a second.
The Toronto native figured many would count him out on Thursday when he was assigned Lane 8 on the outside for the 100 and inside in Lane 2 for the 200 one hour later at Letzigrund Stadium.
“Those aren’t favourable lanes,” he said. “But I knew I was feeling good and had the ability to challenge for top spots if I executed the way I knew how.”
Brown said he “ran blind” in the 100, not knowing his positioning against the competition throughout the race. He finished strong in third behind winner Trayvon Bromell (9.94 seconds) and Yohan Blake (10.05) in 10.06 to match a season best from the heats and semifinals at worlds in Eugene, Ore., where he was eighth in the final.
In a more loaded 200, Brown defeated Knighton and Kenny Bednarek — the 2020 Olympic silver medallist and 2021 Diamond League champion — along with reigning Olympic champion Andre De Grasse, with whom he won world relay gold this summer in the 100 distance. Brown clocked 20.02 seconds on Thursday, his fastest run since the Olympic semifinals (19.99) last summer in Tokyo.
“Once I passed [Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago] off the curve I knew I was in good position [to contend for top three],” said Brown, who took home a combined $19,000 US in prize money from the two races. “I didn’t know where I was in relation to the guys in the high lanes [De Grasse, Bednarek and Noah Lyles] but I told myself if I don’t feel a lot of bodies around me, that’s a good thing.
The Diamond League Final wrapped up on Sunday marking the end of the athletics season.
In 2016 and 2018, Brown extended his season beyond the Diamond League Final to race the sprint double in Zagreb, Croatia, but this year elected to return home to his wife Preeya and 20-month-old son Kingsley after a season that also included winning the sprint double at a fourth straight Canadian championships.
He was on such a high after Thursday’s competition he only slept one hour before taking a bus at 6:40 a.m. to Zurich Airport for his Friday morning flight to Florida, where he lives and trains.
“I’ll enjoy family in my off-season with a [planned] vacation to Hawaii and trip home to Toronto,” Brown said. “It’s been a long year mentally and physically [racing] two events, so it won’t be hard to switch off.”