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Friendship between Canadian runners Philibert-Thiboutot, Desgagnés extends beyond track

On Aug. 16, 2023, Quebec runners Charles Philibert-Thiboutot and Jean-Simon Desgagnés arrived in Hungary, three days before they opened competition at the World Athletics Championships in separate events.

After completing their workouts, the Canadians chose not to return to their hotel to relax or nap. Instead, they hopped on scooters, rode around Budapest, visited historical buildings, filmed each other and shared many laughs.

“Jean-Simon’s got endless energy and likes to be adventurous. Sometimes, I’m a bit lazy and don’t mind staying in my room to chill and read, especially leading into races,” Philibert-Thiboutot shared over a video call Wednesday from Stockholm, where he and Desgagnes will compete Sunday at the BAUHAUS gala Diamond League meet.

“He’s a good influence and made me realize when you’re travelling around the world, it’s good to explore and see things.”

On Wednesday, Philibert-Thiboutot and Desgagnés walked around the Taby Centrum shopping mall and ate dinner with their longtime coach, Felix-Antoine Lapointe, a rare companion on the road who has two athletes at the same Diamond League for the first time.

The friends, who first met at a 2018 training camp, planned to explore more of Stockholm on Thursday before shifting focus to Sunday’s event at the Olympic Stadium.

Live streaming begins at 12 p.m. ET and will be available at CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports App and CBC Gem.

There’s something magical about sharing daily life in training with someone from your group that’s also successful.— Charles Philibert-Thiboutot on fellow runner Jean-Simon Desgagnes

The 33-year-old Philibert-Thiboutot stopped short of saying he and his good friend, eight years his junior, are inseparable. While he spends much of the year training in Vancouver, Desgagnés, the medical student and aspiring internal medicine specialist, is based in Quebec. But they often attend altitude training camps together in Flagstaff, Ariz.

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“There’s something magical about sharing daily life in training with someone from your group that’s also successful,” said Philibert-Thiboutot, who also shares a love of skiing and frequenting coffee shops with Desgagnés. “Last year, I was disappointed with what I did at worlds [10th in his 1,500-metre semifinal heat], he [Desgagnés] was eighth [in the 3,000m steeplechase final] and this year is hungry for more.

‘We feed off each other’

“I think it’s my turn to step up. We build on that positive energy, desire to get better and feed off each other. We [hold] each other accountable and want the best for each other in our respective distances.”

In Sunday’s 1,500 at 11:31 a.m. ET, Philibert-Thiboutot expects better competition than Tuesday at the Ostrava Golden Spike, where he placed fourth in a season-best three minutes 34.50 seconds after pushing the pace and taking the lead on the final lap before he was overtaken in the last 100 metres.

WATCH | Philibert-Thiboutot posts season-best 1,500m in Ostrava:

Italy’s Federico Riva wins 1,500m race at Ostrava Golden Spike, Quebec City’s Philibert-Thiboutot 4th

Italy’s Federico Riva wins the men’s 1,500-metre event at the Ostrava Golden Spike event, in a time of 3:33.52. Quebec City’s Charles Philibert-Thiboutot finished in fourth place.

Philibert-Thiboutot, who qualified for this summer’s Paris Olympics last July — his first since 2016 — is in an important phase of experimenting with race tactics to determine the best way to win or position himself for a top three or five finish necessary to advance through rounds at the Summer Games.

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“I don’t have an A-plus race this year,” he said, “but each has been a learning curve. In Paris, there’s not going to be any room for error.”

Desgagnés will return to the Diamond League circuit for the first time since June 10, 2021 at the Golden Gala in Florence, Italy, where he was last of 14 finishers in an unsuccessful, final effort to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

In pursuit of his first Olympic berth, the 25-year-old ran a personal-best 8:15.58 in the 2023 world final, 58-100ths of a second off the Paris entry standard. However, he is 20th and the top Canadian among the 36 eligible for selection on world ranking points.

Olympic standard top priority

Desgagnés opened his season steeplechase season in a winning 8:16.49 at the USATF Los Angeles Grand Prix on May 17 to achieve his goals of a victory and faster time than his 2023 opener (8:20.68). On Sunday, he’s aiming for a top five or six finish and the Olympic standard.

“It was a good confidence boost and fitness,” Desgagnés said of the L.A. race. “I’m in great fitness and better equipped to compete at a Diamond League and be one of the best [steeple] runners in the world.”

Sprinter Jerome Blake of Kelowna, B.C., fresh off a 10.19-second season best in Ostrava, Czech Republic, will be part of the field in the national 100m in which athletes — like Philibert-Thiboutot in the 1,500 — won’t accumulate Diamond League points.

At 11:20 a.m., Canadian record holder Sarah Mitton will be seeking her first shot put win in four attempts on the young Diamond League season.

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The world No. 2 placed second in Suzhou, China a month ago, third in Marrakech, Morocco on May 19 and fourth in Xiamen to open the China series and Diamond League campaign.

WATCH | Mitton 3rd behind Jackson, Ogunleye in Morocco:

Sarah Mitton finishes 3rd in Diamond League shot put

The Brooklyn, N.S. native notched her best throw on her third turn, earning a score of 19.36 in the women’s shot put during the World Athletics Diamond League competition in Marrakech, Morocco.

Top-ranked Chase Jackson, Mitton’s biggest rival on the professional circuit, is in Sunday’s field trying for a fourth consecutive victory. She won in Suzhou, Marrakech and last Saturday in Halle, Germany.

Bol back to lower hurdles mark

Dutch hurdler Femke Bol was unchallenged on the way to winning the women’s 400m world title last summer, but it could be a different story in Sunday’s race at 1:32 p.m.

Rushell Clayton of Jamaica, who earned bronze that Aug. 24 day in Budapest, will be determined to cross the finish line first, and enters the race with the fastest time in 2024 (53.72) among her competitors, but this will mark the season debut for Italy’s Ayomide Folorunso and Bol.

“I’m happy to be back in Stockholm where I have fond memories of my last race where I set the stadium record 52.27 two years ago,” Bol, who boasts a 51.45 personal best, said in a story posted to the Diamond League website.

Diamond League calendar

  • Paris — July 7
  • Monaco — July 12
  • London — July 20
  • Lausanne, Switzerland — Aug. 22
  • Silesia, Poland — Aug. 25
  • Rome — Aug. 30
  • Zurich — Sept. 5
  • Brussels (DL Final) — Sept. 13-14

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