Sarah Mitton enjoyed a beer, popped a bottle of champagne and saw the sights of Budapest while celebrating her first world championship medal, and then it was back to business for the Canadian athlete.
Since earning shot put silver on Aug. 26 in Hungary, “Brussels” has been code for “no thank you” between Mitton and longtime coach Rich Parkinson when someone has offered a drink, helping her remain disciplined and focused ahead of Thursday’s 12 p.m. ET Diamond League street competition at the Place de la Monnaie in Belgium.
“It’s been a bit surreal, same thing I learned last year,” said Mitton, who was fourth at the 2022 worlds in Eugene, Ore. “The season goes on after [the event] so I’m trying to celebrate the wins as they come.”
Recently, Mitton received good advice from New Zealand thrower Tom Walsh, the two-time Olympic bronze medallist who captured world gold in 2017 and bronze two years later.
“He said to take the proper time to celebrate,” Mitton recalled from Brussels in a phone interview with CBC Sports. “If you don’t, the moment passes, and you’ll regret it in the future.”
WATCH | Mitton holds off Olympic champion for world silver medal:
Upon arriving in Belgium, Parkinson told Mitton to take time for herself, that they didn’t need to go sightseeing following four days of training in Prague.
“For the last 10 days, it’s been back to business. We’re here for a purpose,” said the coach, who also received a silver medal from Mitton’s achievement at worlds. “We’re here to do well, hopefully win Brussels and move on to Eugene [and the Sept. 16-17 Diamond League Final].”
Mitton and world No. 1 Chase Ealey of the United States are tied for third in the season standings with 12 points, four ahead of seventh-place Jessica Woodard. Germany’s Sara Gambetta occupies the sixth and last spot in qualifying for the Final, which ends Thursday, but isn’t on the entry list.
Street meets are a lot of fun. The fans are close, there’s a lot of energy, so I think that will help carry me through.— Sarah Mitton on Thursday’s women’s shot put competition in Brussels
Dutch thrower Jessica Schilder (seven points) and Sweden’s Fanny Roos (four) are eighth and ninth, respectively. All season, athletes have been awarded points for their placing at each meet.
“There’s more than six of us that deserve to be [in the Final]. I’m not going to let it be myself,” said world No. 2 Mitton, who won her first Diamond League competition on June 15 in Oslo, Norway. “I’ve learned to struggle through meets before and come out on top, so I’m excited.
“Street meets are a lot of fun. It’s interactive, the fans are close, there’s a lot of energy so I think, honestly, that will help carry me through.”
WATCH | Mitton wins women’s shot put at Bislett Games in Norway:
The 27-year-old Mitton from Brooklyn, N.S., noted post-worlds fatigue is real, something the reigning Canadian champion experienced a year ago when she won Commonwealth Games gold in Birmingham, England a little over two weeks after worlds.
Mitton ended her 2022 campaign winning at the NACAC Championships in the Bahamas and placing second to Ealey in the Diamond League Final. The American, who threw 20.43 metres to win world gold in Budapest over Mitton (20.08), might not be at full strength in Brussels after Parkinson heard she recently had a bout of food poisoning.
Ealey’s teammate Maggie Ewen is the other athlete in Thursday’s field to top 20m this season — a world-leading 20.45 from the USATF Los Angeles Grand Prix in May — while all 10 women have a personal best of 19.40 or higher.
After worlds, Mitton competed at a German meet, placing second to Auriol Dongmo in the pouring rain on Sept. 1. The Cameroon-born Portuguese athlete is the lone athlete to have secured qualification for the DL Final, thanks to early-season wins in Rabat and Paris.
After Germany, Mitton headed to the Czech Republic, where she taught some children and their dads to throw following a training session in Ricany.
Besides being down-to-earth and someone kids “love,” Parkinson wants fans of Canadian track and field to understand the sacrifices Mitton has made in seven years of working together.
Living and training in Toronto, she doesn’t see family often. She has missed weddings, friends’ birthdays and basically this entire summer with friends. There is no time for a part-time job. If she could, Mitton would love to scuba dive every weekend but she’s lucky if it happens once a year these days.
“It’s tough and definitely a choice,” she said of being a professional athlete. “I miss out on regular life things. Tons of stuff I know will be there for me when I’m done [competing] but this sport gives me so much. I get to travel the world.”
Added Parkinson: “Her life is basically training [five, six hours a day]. Sleep, eat, train, eat, train, eat, sleep and repeat. She put [pursuing] a master’s degree in marine biology on hold. There are financial considerations and hardships she has had to go through. You don’t make a real living throwing a shot on the circuit. You get to the meets and hope you put some money aside.
“And she doesn’t have a shoe sponsor because companies don’t sell [much] in Canada. Hopefully we’re closer [to a deal] now with the [world] silver [medal].”
Sprinters Aaron Brown and Andre De Grasse, along with middle-distance runner Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, are the Canadians competing Friday in Brussels at the meet also known as Allianz Memorial Van Damme.
With 19 points, Brown is tied for second in the 200-metre standings with Liberian-American Joseph Fahnbulleh. De Grasse (14 points) is in the eighth and final qualifying spot but the two men directly in front of him, Letsile Tebogo and Jereem Richards, are not part of the field for Friday’s race at 2:28 p.m. ET.
WATCH | De Grasse 5th in men’s 200m at Weltklasse Zurich:
Positioned behind De Grasse is Zharnel Hughes and Kenny Bednarek (12 points apiece). Kyree King (10 points) could find himself in a battle for the final spot against De Grasse. Each has a 20.01-second season’s best, so a tiebreaker would be determined by head-to-head record in DL events. King was fourth and De Grasse sixth in their lone 2023 matchup on May 5 in Doha, Qatar.
Last week in Zurich, De Grasse (20.26) and Brown (20.39) were fifth and sixth in a stacked 200.
Philibert-Thiboutot is among 15 athletes who will take the line in the men’s 2,000 at 2:56 p.m. ET. The Quebec City runner is also scheduled to compete in the 5th Avenue Mile (1,609m) on Sunday in Manhattan, N.Y.
At worlds, Philibert-Thiboutot didn’t qualify for the final, placing 24th of 27 finishers in the semifinals in three minutes 37.41 seconds. Two weeks later, he clocked 3:35.75 for fifth at a World Athletics Continental Tour silver meet in Berlin.
Live streaming coverage of Friday’s events will be available at CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
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