Saturday, 01 July 2017 12:41

Mike Mason, Shawn Barber try to regain form at Diamond League Paris

Several Canadians resting ahead of next week's track and field nationals

Mike Mason and Shawn Barber will be thrust into the spotlight at Saturday's Diamond League meet in Paris as many of their Canadian teammates are resting ahead of next week's track and field nationals in Ottawa.

Mason, 30, will be out of the shadow of high jump teammate and friend Derek Drouin, the 2016 Rio Olympic champion, who initially was part of the entry list for Saturday's competition.

However, Drouin withdrew this week for precautionary reasons as he's dealing with a minor Achilles tendon issue, his agent Ray Flynn told Report Sports, adding Drouin has not been ruled out for nationals.

Two weeks ago, Mason placed fifth in a field of 10 in Oslo, Norway, clearing 2.25 metres on his second attempt and missing all three tries at 2.29 at the Diamond League event.

After jumping a season-best 2.30 at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif., on April 15, the native of Nanoose Bay, B.C., finished second to four-time champion Drouin at the Drake Relays later in the month at Des Moines, Iowa.

"It has been awesome to see Mike start the season so well and I am optimistic that his best jumps are still ahead of him," Drouin, who is often Mason's roommate on the road, told Report Sports last month.

A three-time Olympian, Mason finished 19th in Rio de Janeiro last August.

He'll face stiff competition in Paris at 1:08 p.m. ET, led by world No. 1 and Rio silver medallist Mutaz Barshim of Qatar, who turned in a season best of 2.38 in Oslo and boasts the five top performances this season.

Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi, the reigning European champion, warmed up for Paris with a jump of 2.20 at the Golden Spike event earlier this week in Ostrava, Czech Republic. An ankle injury forced him to miss the Rio Olympics. The other athlete to watch is Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko, the third highest male jumper in history (2.42).

Barber, 23, has competed at two of the first six Diamond League meets this season, finishing third in the men's pole vault after clearing 5.60 on May 13 in Shanghai and jumping 5.71 two weeks later at the Prefontaine Classic in Portland, Ore.

The Canadian male record holder (5.93) and reigning world champion has done a good job erasing a disappointing 2016 season that saw the Toronto resident finish 10th at the Rio Olympics after he tested positive for cocaine at the Canadian championships in July. Barber also made news later in the month when he publicly came out as gay.

He'll be facing rival Renaud Lavillenie, who will try to defend his event title on home soil after jumping 5.93 in Paris a year ago. American Sam Kendricks, who won bronze in Rio, is coming off the first six-metre jump of his career on June 24 at the U.S. championships in Sacramento, Calif. Poland's Pawel Wojciechowski, who won world bronze in 2015, is also expected to contend for a podium finish Saturday.

Elaine Thompson, women's 100 (2:29 p.m. ET): A week ago, the 2016 double Olympic champion ran to victory at the Jamaican Championships in a world-leading 10.71 seconds, a hundredth of a second shy of her lifetime best set at the same competition.

Thompson, who became the first woman in 28 years to win the 100 and 200 at a single Olympics in Rio, clocked 10.78 at Diamond League Shanghai in mid-May to beat fellow Olympian Tori Bowie of the United States.

Thomas Röhler, men's javelin (2:35 p.m. ET): The 25-year-old German hasn't slowed since early May after throwing 93.90 metres at the season-opening Diamond League meet in Doha to move to No. 2 on the all-time rankings behind Jan Zelezny of the Czech Republic. Röhler, the 2016 Olympic champion, topped 90 again in Rome on June 8 (90.06). His compatriot, Johannes Vetter, might provide the biggest competition in Paris.

Omar McLeod, men's 110 hurdles (3:25 p.m. ET): The Olympic champion is the favourite to prevail in the field of 16. The 23-year-old Jamaican has produced five sub-13-second performances this season, peaking at 12.90 on June 24, a national record. The three hurdlers ranked below McLeod are competing in Paris: Fellow Jamaican Ronald Levy (season-best 13.10), American Devon Allen (13.11) and Antonio Alkana, Africa's new record holder at 13.11. The other hurdler to watch is Aleec Harris of the United States, who won a national title a week ago in 13.24.