Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Andre De Grasse: "I haven't reached my peak yet"

Canada's triple Rio 2016 medallist hopes he can stay injury-free and add to his medal tally in Tokyo.
By Rory Jiwani

Andre De Grasse believes he has "a shot" of succeeding Usain Bolt as an Olympic sprint champion.

With the dominant Jamaican retired, De Grasse is one of a number of athletes bidding to ascend to the top step of the podium in the 100m and 200m at the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Games.

The 26-year-old Canadian spent most of the two years after winning three medals at Rio 2016 on the sidelines through injury, but bounced back to take 200m silver and 100m bronze at the 2019 Doha World Championships.

Now he is looking forward to bolstering his collection in Tokyo.

He told USA Today Sports in June, "I always feel like I have a shot. The last Olympics, I felt I had a shot at winning gold. This Olympics I feel like I have a shot. I'll probably say the same for the next Olympics. That's just my mindset, how I feel.

"I'm just a confident guy. I always feel I can do better. I feel like I haven't reached my peak yet." - Andre De Grasse speaking to USA Today Sports

Why was Usain Bolt angry with Andre De Grasse?

A former high school basketball star, De Grasse made his name at the University of Southern California where he became the first Canadian since Bruny Surin to break 10 seconds.

He also completed the 100m/200m double at the NCAA Championships in May 2015, beating Trayvon Bromell who is likely to be one of his main rivals for gold over the short sprint in Tokyo.

While still 20, he won both 100m and 200m in the Pan American Games on home soil in Toronto, just west of his birthplace and home Scarborough.

Then he and Bromell shared bronze at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing where Bolt edged out Justin Gatlin to retain his crown.

Trayvon Bromell and Andre De Grasse celebrate sharing 100m bronze at the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing
Picture by 2015 Getty Images

His meteoric rise took him to the Rio Olympic Games where he claimed bronze over 100m.

Bolt, the victor once more, spoke in glowing terms of De Grasse although he was less than impressed when the Canadian upstart made him work harder than necessary in the 200m semi-finals.

Despite both men being well clear and assured of their spots in the final, the youngster came to Bolt's shoulder and later admitted he was trying to wear out the fastest man in history.

The eight-time Olympic champion revealed his fury at that incident a year later.

When asked who would be the next Bolt, he refused to answer saying, "The last guy I said was going to be great disrespected me."

De Grasse clocked a Canadian record 19.80s in that Rio semi, and had to settle for silver in the final making him Canada's first 200m medallist since 1928.

A blistering anchor leg in the 4x100m final, which almost earned Canada a medal from nowhere, marked him out as Bolt's potential successor to the sprinting throne.

But a hamstring strain ruled him out of Bolt's swansong, the 2017 World Championships, and further injuries saw him miss the bulk of the 2018 season.

De Grasse's return from injury nightmare

Off the track, De Grasse became a father in June 2018 as American sprint hurdler Nia Ali gave birth to their first child.

And it was not until 2019 that the Ontario native was able to run while free from injury.

He broke the magical respective 10-second and 20-second barriers for 100m and 200m three times apiece before taking 100m bronze and 200m silver at the Doha World Championships, where his partner Ali won 100m hurdles gold.

In the 100m, he clocked a new personal best of 9.90s behind Christian Coleman, whose suspension will keep him out of Tokyo, and Gatlin who is now 39 and finally showing signs that age is catching up with him.

With 200m world champion Noah Lyles yet to reach top form so far this season, both sprints look wide open and the 100m could see De Grasse fighting it out with his old college rival Bromell for Olympic gold.

He told USA Today Sports, "We’re all just as fast, we all have around the same personal bests … but it’s really like you have to do it on that exact day,

“The main thing for me is staying injury free. If I can stay injury free and get to the starting line I know I can accomplish big things.” - Andre De Grasse speaking to USA Today Sports

De Grasse's injury woes took a toll mentally as well as physically.

He has been turning his experiences into something positive, raising money for youth mental health charities through his Andre De Grasse Family Foundation.

In recent weeks, he has been spearheading the #RaceWithMeCanada virtual challenge where youngsters across Canada can run 400m on a track anywhere.

"It's free, it's fun. And it's going to help improve the mental and physical health of Canadian youth." - Andre De Grasse on #RaceWithMeCanada

De Grasse has also recently become a Resilience Ambassador for the mental health technology company headversity.

At May's announcement, he said, "Adversity is inevitable in life and we need to train our minds to be prepared for whatever is thrown our way."

With his customary good humour and positive attitude, De Grasse will be seeking to add to his medal haul in Tokyo and maybe, just maybe, join the elite list of names who have been able to call themselves "the fastest man in the world".