AP Photo Matthias Schrader
AP Photo Matthias Schrader

By the numbers: Team Canada’s historic performance at 2023 World Athletics Championships

The crowd at the National Athletics Centre in Budapest, Hungary certainly got the opportunity to learn the words to “O Canada” over the weekend.

Heading into this year’s World Athletics Championships, Canada had won a grand total of seven gold medals since the global meet was first held in 1983. All of a sudden, that number grew by four. 

Canada’s six medals (four gold, two silver) as well as seven other top-eight finishes added up to a total of 70 points, ranking Canada as the sixth nation overall at the World Athletics Championships. Canada’s four gold medals tied with Spain for the second-most world titles at these championships, trailing only the United States.

This is a huge performance from Canada’s athletics squad, particularly leading into an Olympic year.

A year of firsts

Ethan Katzberg started off Canada’s string of historic firsts, winning the nation’s first ever hammer throw world title. At 21, Katzberg also distinguished himself in the history books as the youngest man to ever win the title, as well as the youngest male medallist ever in the event. Katzberg threw 81.25m to set a new Canadian record and win the gold medal.

Read: 5 fun facts about world champion hammer thrower Ethan Katzberg

Camryn Rogers followed that up days later, becoming the first Canadian to win the women’s hammer throw world title (we’re a big hammer throw nation now, didn’t you know?). Rogers threw 77.22m to clinch the title.

Camryn Rogers, of Canada, celebrates after an attempt in the Women’s hammer throw final of during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Rogers also ended Canada’s gold medal drought on the women’s side, becoming the first Canadian woman to win an athletics world title since Perdita Felicien (who was providing commentary for CBC) won gold in the 100m hurdles in 2003. In fact, they are the only two Canadian women to be world champions in athletics. 

“Goodbye hockey, hello hammer throw!” Felicien joked after Rogers’ win.

Read: World Athletics Championships: Camryn Rogers wins hammer throw gold

On Saturday, Marco Arop climbed to the top of the podium, becoming the first Canadian man to win the 800m title. Arop went to Budapest as the man to beat, having spent most of the season at number one in the world rankings, and he did not disappoint. 

Usually known for his frontrunning and pace-pushing, Arop showcased a different strategy in the final, hanging back and then putting in a huge surge to the front on the bell lap.

Marco Arop, of Canada and Simone Barontini, of Italy touch hands as they approach the finish of a Men’s 800-meters heat during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

“After bronze in Eugene I just concentrated on making progress, step by step, each year trying to become better than I was the year before. Now it’s going to be hard to beat a gold medal – I’ll just have to repeat it, I guess,” Arop said.

Sarah Mitton secured Canada’s first women’s shot put medal, throwing 20.08m to take silver. Mitton and Arop were co-captains of Team Canada. And here’s another fun fact: the only other Canadian shot putter to win a world medal is Dylan Armstrong, who these days is better known as the coach of new world champion Ethan Katzberg! 

Finally, on the penultimate day of the meet, Pierce LePage delivered Canada’s first decathlon world championship title. The defending Olympic champion, Damian Warner, joined LePage on the podium, taking the silver (Canada is a multi-event nation too!).  

The four gold medals by Katzberg, Rogers, Arop and LePage are the most for Canada in one edition of the 40-year history of the World Athletics Championships. 

Canada rules the top-10

In addition to the medallists, Team Canada had seven other top-10 performances at the World Athletics Championships.

Evan Dunfee was so close – twice! Dunfee finished in fourth place in both the men’s 20km race walk (setting a new national record of 1:18:03 along the way) and 35km race walk (2:25.28). Dunfee was particularly pleased with the high result in the 20km distance as it is significantly shorter than his preferred distance, the 50km, which has been removed from the international program.

The women’s 4x400m relay team, consisting of Zoe Sherar, Aiyanna Stiverne, Kyra Constantine, and Grace Konrad, also placed fourth, with a total time of 3:22.42. They were just 1.38 seconds out of a podium position. 

Moh Ahmed raced his way to a sixth-place finish in the men’s 10,000m, running 27:56.43. Andre De Grasse recorded the same result in the men’s 200m, running 20.14. 

Ahmed followed up his 10,000m performance with another top-10 finish in the 5000m. He ran 13:12.92 to finish seventh. Ahmed is the reigning Olympic silver medallist in the event from Tokyo 2020.

It’s a sign of the high expectations that Ahmed has of himself that he expressed disappointment at his performance at this year’s world championships.

“Maybe because of the lack of racing my racing instincts weren’t there, I was kind of second-guessing myself,” Ahmed said after the race. “That’s what made the difference but I put in great, great training and it’s unfortunate I couldn’t reward that training with a medal.”

But Ahmed’s coach says that the world hasn’t seen the best of the Canadian distance-specialist yet.

Jean-Simon Desgagnés placed eighth in the men’s 3000m steeplechase with a personal best time of 8:15.58.