Nanoose Bay's Michael Mason named to fourth consecutive Olympic team

The silhouette of a lone figure arching over the bar into the cushioned pit at Rotary Bowl in Nanaimo represents no ordinary high jumper. Michael Mason of Nanoose Bay is preparing for Tokyo after being named a rare four-time Olympian.

Mason is one of three Islanders named to Canada 57-athlete track and field team Saturday for the 2020 Plus One Tokyo Olympic Games, beginning July 23. Cam Levins of Black Creek will represent Canada in the men’s marathon and Alycia Butterworth of Parksville in the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase. In quite a feather in Ballenas Secondary’s cap, the Parksville school’s track and field program will be represented in the Tokyo Olympics by Mason and Butterworth, whose outside entity was the Oceanside Track and Field Club.

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Longtime Prairie Inn Harriers star Natasha Wodak will compete for Canada in the women’s marathon.

Levins is a former Island and B.C. cross-country champion out of G.P. Vanier Secondary of Courtenay and the Comox Valley Cougars club.

This will be Levins’ and Wodak’s second Olympics while Butterworth is a debutante. They will be hard pressed in their careers to match Mason’s run of four Olympics, which began at Beijing 2008 and includes London 2012 and Rio 2016.

“I’m not focusing on longevity records or lists or anything like that, I’m just thrilled and happy to have qualified and be named,” said Mason, the former world junior champion, who was seventh in the 2019 IAAF world championships in Doha.

“Olympic Games are not easy to make. But I’m not reflecting on it [fourth-consecutive qualifying accomplishment] right now because I’m totally focused on the process for Tokyo.”

Mason has a bronze medal from the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and silver medals from the 2015 Toronto and 2019 Lima Pan Am Games but the big podium prize at the Olympics remains the goal. The 34-year-old former Island and B.C. high school champion made the finals at the 2019 worlds so will be in the hunt at Tokyo.

“It, of course, has been a strange and unusual year for everybody and I would have had a lot more competitions under my belt by now. But I’ve made it work given the tough conditions and training is going well,” said Mason.

“I’m jumping well and feeling good and feel in a really good spot. I want to continue to be consistent and focus on the process. I’m going into Tokyo very confident.”

With the Tokyo Olympics a year later than planned, and with only three years until Paris 2024, there is a question that will be asked of Mason post-Tokyo. The 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games are only a year away, so is he enticed to keep going?

“I’m only focused on the next month and Tokyo,” said Mason.

“I’ll figure the rest out later. I’m not ruling anything out.”

Django Lovett of Toronto is the other Canadian men’s high jumper who qualified for the Tokyo Games. The Canadian Olympic track and field team is headlined by sprint sensation Andre De Grasse of Markham, Ont., and decathlon star Damian Warner of London, Ont.

More than 75 Island or Island-based athletes across several sports are preparing to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics this summer in Tokyo.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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