Aaron Brown says improved execution, confidence was key to Diamond League Final success

·4 min read
Canada's Aaron Brown says the confidence gained in beating Erriyon Knighton, Marvin Bracy, Kenny Bednarek and some of the world's other top sprinters earlier this week at the Diamond League Final will serve him next season leading up to the world championships in August in Hungary. (David Ramos/Getty Images/File - image credit)
Canada's Aaron Brown says the confidence gained in beating Erriyon Knighton, Marvin Bracy, Kenny Bednarek and some of the world's other top sprinters earlier this week at the Diamond League Final will serve him next season leading up to the world championships in August in Hungary. (David Ramos/Getty Images/File - image credit)

Hours following his spectacular season-ending performance Thursday evening on the track at the Diamond League Final in Zurich, Aaron Brown talked about his soaring confidence.

It began to grow, the veteran Canadian sprinter said, late in the season when he was competitive with 18-year-old phenom Erriyon Knighton and his American teammate Marvin Bracy, who were world championship medallists in July.

Brown finished second to Knighton in the 100 metres in Lucerne, Switzerland, and earlier in August in a 200 race in Hungary while placing third behind Knighton at Diamond League Brussels on Sept. 2. Two days later, he won the 100 in Padova, Italy, edging Bracy by 1-100th of a second.

A healthy and fit Brown showed improved execution in those races and believed a top-three finish in the sprint double was realistic this week at the Weltklasse Zürich track and field meet after placing fourth in the 200 at the Diamond League Final in 2017, 2018, 2019 and last year.

The Toronto native figured many would count him out on Thursday when he was assigned Lane 8 on the outside for the 100 and inside in Lane 2 for the 200 one hour later at Letzigrund Stadium.

"Those aren't favourable lanes," he said. "But I knew I was feeling good and had the ability to challenge for top spots if I executed the way I knew how."

Brown said he "ran blind" in the 100, not knowing his positioning against the competition throughout the race. He finished strong in third behind winner Trayvon Bromell (9.94 seconds) and Yohan Blake (10.05) in 10.06 to match a season best from the heats and semifinals at worlds in Eugene, Ore., where he was eighth in the final.

WATCH | Brown 3rd in his 1st 100-metre race at Diamond League Final:

In a more loaded 200, Brown defeated Knighton and Kenny Bednarek — the 2020 Olympic silver medallist and 2021 Diamond League champion — along with reigning Olympic champion Andre De Grasse, with whom he won world relay gold this summer in the 100 distance. Brown clocked 20.02 seconds on Thursday, his fastest run since the Olympic semifinals (19.99) last summer in Tokyo.

Brown extended his neck as he crossed the finish line, a move that helped him place second ahead of Alexander Ogando in a photo finish. At worlds, Ogando was a member of the Dominican Republic's gold-medal team in the mixed 4x400 relay.

"Running through the line is always a good thing," he said, "because you never know how close your competitors are until you cross the line," said Brown, who didn't secure his spot in the 200 until he ran 20.22 into a strong headwind of -2.9 metres per second in Brussels a week before the Diamond League Final.

WATCH | Brown places 2nd in stacked 200 metres in Zurich:

In a rare show of emotion after the 200 in Zurich, Brown clapped his hands, smiled and pounded his chest four times with his right fist.

"Once I passed [Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago] off the curve I knew I was in good position [to contend for top three]," said Brown, who took home a combined $19,000 US in prize money from the two races. "I didn't know where I was in relation to the guys in the high lanes [De Grasse, Bednarek and Noah Lyles] but I told myself if I don't feel a lot of bodies around me, that's a good thing.

"I knew I needed to correct [the] middle part of my races, and still have work to do. I was able to do it better in Zurich than other races and that will be the key to unlock faster times for me going forward.

"It gave me a lot of confidence," continued Brown, "beating some of the people I know I'll need to beat next year to make my dreams come true at the world championships [in August in Budapest, Hungary]."

WATCH | Morgan Campbell on why Brown deserves respect:

Lyles the 25-year-old American and two-time world champion in the 200, won in 19.52 to eclipse Usain Bolt's 19.66 meet record from Aug. 30, 2012 to claim his fifth Diamond League Trophy and $30,000. He won all 12 of his races in the distance this season, heats and finals.

It's been a long year mentally and physically [racing] two events, so it won't be hard to switch off. — Canada's Aaron Brown on the sprinting off-season

In 2016 and 2018, Brown extended his season beyond the Diamond League Final to race the sprint double in Zagreb, Croatia, but this year elected to return home to his wife Preeya and 20-month-old son Kingsley after a season that also included winning the sprint double at a fourth straight Canadian championships.

He was on such a high after Thursday's competition he only slept one hour before taking a bus at 6:40 a.m. to Zurich Airport for his Friday morning flight to Florida, where he lives and trains.

"I'll enjoy family in my off-season with a [planned] vacation to Hawaii and trip home to Toronto," Brown said. "It's been a long year mentally and physically [racing] two events, so it won't be hard to switch off."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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