Melissa Bishop to race for 800m podium at track and field worlds

Melissa Bishop is anxious to erase the bad memory of a podium miss at last summer’s Rio Olympics in the women’s 800-metre final at the track and field world championships on Sunday (CBCSports.ca, 3:10 p.m. ET).

The Canadian-record holder crossed the finish line second on Friday in her semifinal heat behind Ajee Wilson of the United States in one minute 59.56 seconds on a breezy night at London Stadium.

Melissa Bishop runs into 800m final at track worlds4:54

“It’s everything,” the 2015 world silver medallist told the CBC about advancing to the world final. “It’s redemption, it’s showing the world I can still be on top.

“In Rio, I could have run 1:55 and I still would have been just as upset because at that point the game is about medals.”

On that Aug. 20 night in Brazil, Bishop could not fight off Kenya’s Margaret Wambui in the final straight for the bronze medal.

Wambui passed Bishop in the final straight to finish with a time of 1:56.89, only 13-100ths of a second ahead of the Canadian, who lowered her national record with a time 1:57.02.

South Africa’s Caster Semenya ran in 1:55.28 to win gold as expected, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi took silver in 1:56.49. Entering the race, Bishop had run the third-fastest 800 of the year, behind Semenya then Niyonsaba.

Ailing coach on Bishop’s mind

The thought of narrowly missing a medal still reduces the 29-year-old Bishop from Eganville, Ont., to tears.

“It’s like a pain in your side that won’t go away,” she said recently.

Bishop said the next two days would be about recovery with a podium finish in her sights. In her thoughts is coach Dennis Fairall, who will watch the drama unfold in his home office in Windsor, Ont.

The 64-year-old is battling progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a rare degenerative brain disease that has no cure and is slowly stealing his mobility and speech.

Given this is the first major international meet Fairall and Bishop have been apart, how has it served as added motivation to reach the podium?

“Oh, the big would love it,” said Bishop, with a smile. “To bring home a medal to Dennis, his own medal, I’m sure his wife Janet would love that one to go on the wall.”

Phylicia George eliminated in hurdles semis

Phylicia George pointed to a nagging right hamstring training and lost training time leading up to the world championships for her poor semifinal performance in the 100-metre hurdles.

The two-time Olympian started well in Friday’s heats but the lost fitness while recovering from the injury likely had an effect on George’s fitness late in the race. She finished fifth of eight hurdlers in her heat in 13.04 seconds, marginally slower than her qualifying time of 13.01.

“I missed two months of training, missed a lot of races, so I’m not really sharp,” the 29-year-old native of Scarborough, Ont., told CBC after the race. “I knew it was going to be a battle and I was just trying to hold things and rely on my experience.

“I used to be in the finals so I’m really disappointed. It just wasn’t my day today.”

The hamstring progressively worsened near the end of George’s indoor season in the spring and affected her early in the outdoor season. She ran a season-best 12.85 at the Grenada Invitational in St. George’s in April and 13.14 in Doha, Qatar on May 5 — her one and only Diamond League meet this season — before the injury sidelined her.

George, who was eighth at the Rio Olympics, also made an impression at the Millrose Games in New York in mid-February, winning the indoor 60 hurdles in 7.98 and recording a Canadian-leading time of 7.27 in the 60 sprint.

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