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19-year-old Canadian Justyn Knight takes down Olympic medallist Galen Rupp

Canadian Justyn Knight, 19, defeated Galen Rupp, one of the best runners in the world, on Thursday in Portland, Ore., narrowly missing the Olympic standard (photo: Randy Miyazaki, @TaFphoto).

Justyn Knight

Canadian Justyn Knight, one of the country’s most promising long-distance runners, outkicked American and Olympic silver medallist Galen Rupp in Portland, Ore. on Thursday evening at the Stumptown Twilight. The 19-year-old and University of Syracuse student won the 5,000m in 13:26.36, just 1.36 seconds off the Canadian Olympic standard.

Thursday’s mark was a new personal best for the Toronto resident after he ran 13:27.43 in Palo Alto, Calif. in May.

Conditions in Portland were rainy and cool for the twilight meet, another term for evening or night competitions, but the skies cleared before the men’s 5,000m. Rupp was in contention in the final lap before Knight unleashed his kick to take the win. Rupp is believed to be training for the marathon in Rio though he may double in the 10,000m.

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Knight admitted after the race that it felt “fantastic” to rebound from a poor showing at the NCAA track and field championships a few weeks ago.

“Last night I was able to come out with the W against some world class athletes,” Knight wrote on Instagram. “My initial feeling was frustration after missing the Olympic standard again by one second. However, I took a second to really count my blessings. It wasn’t about time, or who I beat. To me it was about finishing like a champion again no matter the circumstances. That is something I have not done in months. I really did try this year. It’s been a while since I represented my country. Next time around I will be ready, I promise.”

Rupp, the training partner of Canadian Cam Levins as a member of the Nike Oregon Project, is one of the world’s most accomplished long-distance runners. He won silver in the 10,000m at the London Olympics, holds the American record in the 10,000m and multiple indoor national records. Rupp finished third on Thursday behind Knight and Woody Kincaid.

Competitions in Portland have treated Canadians well in recent weeks including Olympic standards by, notably, Alycia Butterworth, Gabriela Stafford and Luc Bruchet. Rupp won the 5,000m at the Portland Track Festival eight days ago after a winter where he qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in the marathon.

Post-race interview

Knight will now need to decide whether to contest the Canadian track and field championships July 7-10 in Edmonton, the precursor to the Olympics. He needs to run standard by the end of the championships, and place well at the event, if he wants to make Rio.