GLASGOW — Canada’s Cam Levins powered down the homestretch and onto his first international medal podium — no longer an “also-ran.”
The 25-year-old from Black Creek, B.C., won bronze in the men’s 10,000 metres at the Commonwealth Games on Friday with a spectacular kick down the stretch that had him leading until five metres to go.
The medal was validation for his move to Oregon last year, to train with a who’s-who of distance running that includes British star Mo Farah and American Galen Rupp.
Finally on Friday night, Levins felt he belonged.
“I know I’m in the right spot, and I don’t feel like I’m just going to be an also-ran now,” Levins said. “I feel like I’m a deserving member of my team.”
“When you’re running with the Olympic champion in two events (Farah), the Olympic silver medallist (Rupp), multiple-time world medallist (Matthew Centrowitz Jr. of the U.S.), all my teammates are medallists in something.
“This is validation that what I’m doing works, and training with the people I am is going to make me just as good.”
Levins led a three-medal night for Canada at Hampden Park. Shawnacy Barber also captured bronze in the pole vault, while Angela Whyte capped the night with a bronze in the women’s 100-metre hurdles.
Canada remained third in the overall medal standings with 75 medals (30 gold, 14 silver, 31 bronze), well behind England (140) and Australia (124).
Also Friday, Jennifer Abel of Laval, Que., won gold in the women’s one-metre springboard and gymnast Ellie Black of Halifax won gold in the beam event and bronze in the floor competition.
Scott Morgan of North Vancouver, B.C., won the men’s vault for his fourth medal of the Games and Kevin Lytwyn of Stoney Creek, Ont., took bronze in the men’s horizontal bar.
Ryan Bester of Hanover, Ont., won silver in men’s singles lawn bowling and Toronto boxer Mandy Bujold won bronze in the women’s 51-kilo category.
Matt Hughes was fourth in a 3,000-metre steeplechase final that included three Canadians.
With one day to go, Canada has 16 track and field medals in Glasgow.
Levins, who posted “Tonight’s the night!” on his Twitter page before heading to Hampden Park, ran virtually the perfect tactical race, keeping within striking distance of the leaders until the bell lap. He made his way up to the lead, and looked headed for victory until the final few metres.
Levins crossed in 27 minutes 56.23 seconds — barely a tenth of a second from gold.
Moses Kipsiro of Uganda won gold in 27:56.11, while Josphat Kipkoech Bett of Kenya ran 27:56.14 for the silver.
“I started tying up in the last 50 metres, I was hoping they wouldn’t catch me, but they did and I’ll learn from that,” Levins said. “But I’m so happy to be on the podium. It’s my first time … but I’ll go back and train harder.”
Levins is already known for his gruelling mileage, which has included three runs a day. After capping a college career that saw him win both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at Souther Utah, he and his now-wife Elizabeth moved to Portland to train with the Oregon Project, the star-studded distance group coached by running legend Alberto Salazar.
“Sometimes it can be pretty humbling,” he said in an interview before Glasgow. “They can beat up on you pretty good, so if you’re able to stay close to them in a workout, it can build your confidence.
“It gives you a really good idea of where you’re at, where I am in comparison to the best in the world.”
Now he knows the podium is within reach, he was thinking ahead to a couple more Friday night.
“This sets me up so well for next year. I think I’ll just be that much stronger and faster, and after this, I’ll be looking to win Pan Ams, and hopefully get on the medal stand in Rio (2016 Olympics),” he said. “I don’t think that’s saying too much at this point.”
Mohammed Ahmed of St. Catharines, Ont., was sixth in the 10,000, and he and Levins teamed up for a celebratory Canadian lap after.
“I haven’t done that before, I’ve never been in the position to do that, so me Mohammed, we enjoyed that together,” Levins said. “The great thing about him is he’s as happy for me as I’d be for him in the same position. Hopefully next time we’re up there on the podium together.”
Barber, a 20-year-old who grew up in the U.S. but has dual citizenship — he lists Toronto as his hometown — cleared 5.45 metres for third in the pole vault.
“I wanted to be on the podium, but I just came in to play, and of course I hoped for a bit better, but I can’t complain,” Barber said.
Barber’s dad George was from Kincardine, Ont., about an hour outside of Toronto, and was a pole vaulter on Canada’s national team in the 1980s. Barber was born in the U.S., but the family spent its summers in Kincardine.
He chose to compete for Canada, he said, because “I thought I would be very proud to follow in my fathers footsteps.”
His father introduced him to the sport, assembling a pole vault pit in their barn in New Mexico when Barber was a young boy.
“He was always a big fanatic about pole vault, so I just kind of picked it up,” Barber said.
His dad, who’s 53, even competed at last year’s Canadian championships, where the younger Barber claimed his first national senior title.
Barber, who competes collegiately for Akron University, also broke Doug Wood’s 21-year-old Canadian record last season.
England’s Steven Lewis and Luke Cutts both cleared 5.55 in pole vault, with Lewis taking the gold based on fewer misses.
Whyte, a 34-year-old from Edmonton and veteran of four Commonwealth Games, won the hurdles bronze in 13.02 seconds.
Olympic and world champion Sally Pearson of Australia won in 12.67, while Tiffany Porter of England took the silver in 12.80.
Hughes, a 24-year-old from Oshawa, Ont., was beaten to the finish line in the steeple by three Kenyans — Jonathan Ndiku, Jairus Birech, and Ezekiel Kemboi Cheboi.
“I should be (happy), that’s the three best guys in the world right now,” Hughes said. “But I told myself at the start of the Games that I would be disappointed with anyone other than a medal — not to put to much pressure on myself since I’m young in the sport — but I don’t want to be one of hose people who’s, ’I’m happy to be here, I’m happy to be in the top five, the top 10.’ I’m here to win a race.”
Chris Winter of Vancouver was sixth, while Taylor Milne of Guelph, Ont., crossed seventh but was disqualified.
Hughes said Canada’s track and field athletes are feeding off each other’s successes this week at Hampden Park.
“It’s a young team, but it’s a young team with the mentality: let’s go take on the world, let’s not just be happy with top-10, top-five, let’s go win some medals.
“It’s a mentality, and it’s good to be around those people.”