Charles Philibert-Thiboutot will represent Canada at the Olympics for a second time next July in Paris.
In his first attempt at the automatic qualifying standard of three minutes, 33.50 second in the men’s 1,500 metres, the middle-distance runner clocked 3:33.29 in his Diamond League season debut on Sunday in Silesia, Poland.
“I’m hoping the race will be fast [and] obviously I’ll have the Olympic standard in mind,” Philibert-Thiboutot told CBC Sports this week. “It would be nice to [hit it] right away.”
The Olympic qualifying window opened July 1, just 13 days after the Quebec City athlete dropped his personal best to 3:32.94 in Nancy, France. He ran 3:33.54 eight days earlier in Montesson, France, to end an eight-year drought between PBs and meet the 3:34.20 auto standard for the Aug. 19-27 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
“As soon as I crossed the [finish] line the first time in France, there was so much joy that all that frustration and doubts I had over the years were gone,” said Philibert-Thiboutot, who was 12th of 14 finishers on Sunday.
“It was like validation that all those years of hard work, at least to me, were definitely worth it.”
Over the years, Philibert-Thiboutot’s PB attempts were disrupted at various times by the following injuries: Stress fracture in his right foot, a left Achilles problem, lower back issues, torn left calf and a sciatic nerve problem.
The four-time Canadian champion also encountered bad luck with race conditions not on his side, whether it was poor weather or getting bodied, tripped a lot and not being able to find a rhythm as was the case last month racing at the Portland Track Festival.
“The years between 2017 and 2020 when the injuries were major, you’re wondering if you’ll ever be able to perform again [on the track],” said Philibert-Thiboutot, who didn’t qualify for the 1,500 final at the 2016 Rio Olympics, placing 16th (3:40.79). “To move forward, and this is something I worked on with a sports psychologist in 2021 and 2022, I can’t carry the negative emotions of the injuries forever. I got rid of them in 2022 and I’m a totally new athlete.”
Reigning Olympic 1,500 champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway acquired Sunday’s event in a 3:27.14 PB for a European record and lowered his season world-leading time from 3:27.95.
“Today I wanted a fast race and I wanted to run another sub-3:28. I knew if I could do that, there was a big risk of setting another PB,” said Ingebrigtsen, who is undefeated in 10 races this season. “The pacemakers helped a lot today, especially with Stewart McSweyn taking over on the third lap. It is not every day that you get one of the best runners in the world to help you run fast. This result was the best I could hope for today.”
Abel Kipsang was second in a 3:29.11 PB followed by Kenyan teammate Reynold Kipkorir Cheruiyot (3:30.30), also a PB.
The next Diamond League stop is next Friday in Monaco, where Marco Arop and Moh Ahmed are scheduled to run for Canada in the 800 and 5,000, respectively.
Arop, the world No.1 in his event, ran a 1:43.30 SB for second place on June 9 at the Meeting de Paris Diamond League competition, only 10-100ths of a second off Brandon McBride’s Canadian record.
Arop, the reigning national champion, had a trio of top-three finishes on the professional track and field circuit in 2022.
Ahmed, who became Canada’s first Olympic medalist in the 5,000 with silver in Tokyo in 2021, hasn’t raced since a 12:56.46 clocking at the Golden Gala Diamond League in Florence, Italy on June 2.
The 32-year-old Canadian record holder in the 5,000 and 10,000 plans to race both events at worlds and the 5,000 a few days later in Zurich.