OTTAWA — In Saturday's 200-metre semifinals, Aaron Brown made sure to wait for the gun, the soles of his feet virtually glued to the rubber pads of the starting blocks.
"I was sitting in there, I'm not going anywhere until I know," Brown laughed. "I made sure not to false start.
"I said 'Wait for that goddamned' . . . oops sorry, 'Wait for that gun.' "
A night earlier, Brown was disqualified from the 100 metres for a false start. He fell victim to one of sport's cruellest rules, his race over because he surged just a millisecond too soon.
Track and field has a zero tolerance policy for false starts, one strike and you're out. The IAAF — the sport's world governing body — implemented a single false start rule in 2010 and it has been one of sport's most hotly debated topics ever since.
The blocks are fitted with motion sensors, and if either a sprinter's hand or foot moves within one tenth of a second of the gun — since the human brain can't process the sound any sooner than 0.1 — it's ruled a false start.
The rule cost Canadian hurdler Perdita Felicien a spot on the 2012 London Olympic team, and Usain Bolt almost assuredly another world title. The Jamaican superstar false started in the 100 final at the 2011 world championships, pulling his shirt up over his face in frustration as he stomped off the track.
"I understand (the rule) because if you have more than one false start, people will take advantage of that," Brown said. "That's what we had before, and it would hold up the races.
"The rules are the rules, everyone has to adhere to them, and unfortunately I got caught (Friday)."
Brown, who boasts a best time of 9.96 seconds, ran the 100 semi under protest and then appealed his disqualification, but lost the appeal.
"It was one of those long guns and I thought I heard something because the longer they hold you, you start to feel a little anxious, you think 'OK now, OK now,' " Brown said. "Any noise you hear, you think that's the gun.
"I was trying to focus on my start, make sure my reaction time was on point, so first little noise I heard I went."
Andre De Grasse went on to win the 100 final in 10.11 seconds.
The 25-year-old Brown will battle De Grasse in Sunday's 200 finals. Perhaps harnessing some pent-up frustration from the previous night, Brown recorded the fastest time in Saturday's semis of 20.31. De Grasse ran 20.44 to win his heat.
Brown broke the Canadian record — which had stood for 23 years — in that distance in 2014, then De Grasse came along and broke it the following season. De Grasse holds the record of 19.80.
The two are the only two active Canadian sprinters to run sub-10 in the 100. De Grasse's career best was the 9.91 he ran to win bronze at the Rio Olympics.
Brown and De Grasse are friends. Before Saturday's 200 semis, they chatted about basketball, specifically Lonzo Ball's NBA debut for the Los Angeles Lakers in a Summer League game.
"He was awful," Brown laughed of Ball's 2-of-15 shooting disaster. "But it was his first game, he was probably really nervous. It's just Summer League, he'll be all right.
"Andre and I talk about pretty much everything except track. We'll talk about basketball, the NBA. If we talk about track, it's all light-hearted. We're friends at the day, and only for about 20 seconds or 10 seconds are we enemies."
The 22-year-old De Grasse, who hopes to claim the 200 title after losing to Brendon Rodney last year, stopped after his race to sign autographs for kids who stuffed pieces of paper and pens through the fence.
Brown traditionally listens to music during warmup, preferring "chill" music like Michael Jackson on race days. But his Beats headphones got wet during Friday night's downpour.
"I was listening and they just went 'Beeeeee.' They just blew out," Brown said. "I don't know if they're waterlogged and not working anymore, but I had no music today."
The Canadian championships determine the team for the world event next month in London. Brown has the qualifying standard in the 200 and will be on the 4x100 relay squad.
Since De Grasse and Gavin Smellie are the only two athletes with the 100 qualifying standard, and Canada can send three in the event, Brown could still run the short sprint in London if he achieves the standard on before July 16.
Brown said he's keeping things "in perspective."
"I still have the 200, I can still run the relay," Brown said. "This could be a blessing in disguise because if I'm only doing the 200 there, it will allow me to focus on just one event, and maybe I'll do even better than if I was doubling."