American sprinter Jeremy Wariner is moving up to middle distance racing â€” at least for one night.
The five-time world champion and 400-metre specialist is in the field for the 1,200-metre pursuit race at the Montreal Grand Prix on Saturday.
The unique event pits runners from various distances racing for cash. The first runner through the finish line after each of the six laps on the 200-metre track wins a cash prize.
“It’s a little out of the box for me. I thought it would be fun,” Wariner said.
Among the field are Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, who became the first Quebec athlete to break the four-minute barrier in the indoor mile with his fourth-place finish at the Millrose Games last weekend, and Lewis Kent of Mississauga, Ont., the former world record-holder in the beer mile.
Strategy? Wariner has none.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do,” he said, laughing. “I might the first lap or two sit right behind them and then outkick them to the finish line, back off behind them and then outkick them again. I know at least the first three laps I’ll be able to outkick them with my footspeed.
“It will just be the last three laps, will I be able to hang with them? But probably going to be one of those: once the gun goes off, I’ll do the first thing on my mind. It could be interesting, it could be death at the same time.”
The women will run a mile pursuit race â€” with a cash prize for the winner of Laps 3 through 8 â€” at the Montreal Grand Prix, which is being held in conjunction with the Hershey indoor youth and junior championships.
Wariner said the unique race is a step in the right direction toward making the sport more attractive to a young audience. Earlier this month, Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt starred in the Nitro Athletics series in Melbourne, Australia, a fresh concept that saw teams of athletes in different disciplines go head to head, and included a mixed 4×100 relay and a 150-metre race.
“I think what they’re trying to do now is a good idea, just trying to get the younger crowd into it and letting people enjoy track,” Wariner said. “For the most part, especially in the States, sitting there for three to four hours at a track meet can get kind of boring. So throwing different races in there, making it exciting. . . it brings bigger crowds to the meets.”
Wariner won double gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and gold and silver at the Olympics four years later in Beijing. He didn’t qualify for last summer’s Rio Olympics, pulling up with a cramp in the semifinals at the U.S. trials.
He’d love to make the U.S. team for this summer’s world championships in London, to race on the world scene one last time, but knows it won’t be easy.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Wariner said from Philadelphia, where he was changing planes en route to Montreal. “Owning a franchise (he and his wife own a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop in Dallas) and trying to train at the same time, and then having three kids, it’s hard to juggle around. But I’m trying to do the best I can, and just see how this year goes.
“I’m 33 now, so it’s seeming like this will probably end up being my last year. So just trying to enjoy it, and coming up here to Montreal and doing this race is one way to enjoy it.”
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Lori Ewing , The Canadian Press