Canada has not seen a men’s or women’s medal in the 800m distance since 1964, when Tokyo last hosted the summer spectacle and Bill Crothers brought home the Olympic silver for Canada. When track and field commences in Tokyo this weekend, Canadians will find themselves rooting for a 22-year-old Edmonton native – Marco Arop.
Arop has been tearing up the professional track scene since he turned pro in 2019. He has since stated his presence on the world stage by winning Pan-Am gold in 2019 and running a personal best 1:43.26 a few weeks ago in the Monaco Diamond League (0.06 seconds off Brandon McBride’s Canadian 800m record). In the Monaco race, Arop finished third in a deep field behind other Tokyo 800m medal contenders Nigel Amos of Botswana and Emmanuel Korir of Kenya. Going into the Tokyo Olympics, Arop is ranked sixth by World Athletics and fifth among athletes competing in the two-lap distance. (The top-ranked 800m runner in the world, Donovan Brazier, failed to qualify for Tokyo at US Olympic Trials.)
Arop, who only started running seriously during his senior year in high school, attended Mississippi State University alongside fellow Canadian 800m Olympian Brandon McBride. What makes Arop unique compared to his competitors is his size and the power he can generate with each stride. Arop’s build and running style have been compared to 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion David Rudisha of Kenya. “One thing that separates Marco from other athletes is his focus on becoming the best 800m runner he can be,” says Kenya Small, a Canadian training partner of Arop’s in Starkville, Miss. “He has never been distracted from his goal, and his main focus is just trying to become a better athlete every day.”
Arop’s quest for Olympic glory will begin on July 30 at 9 p.m. ET, when the men’s 800m heats go off at the National Stadium in Tokyo, the setting for all track and field events. The semi-finals will take place on Aug. 1 and the final on Aug. 4 at 8:05 a.m. ET. You can follow every second of the track and field at Tokyo 2020 on CBC Gem or cbc.ca/olympics.