Canada at the Pan Ams: De Grasse set for stardom

Pan-Am-Games

Andre De Grasse headlines Canada's Pan Am track and field team. (Ryan Kang/AP)

Name: Andre De Grasse
Born: Nov. 10, 1994 in Scarborough, Ont.
Sport: 100 m, 200 m, 4×100-m relay

What’s his story?

De Grasse’s rise to the top of Canadian sprinting began with him toeing the line at a high school track meet in the spring of 2012 in a basketball jersey and borrowed spikes. A basketball player to that point, De Grasse only agreed to run after his high school hoops team packed it in during his senior year. While the rest of his competition settled into their blocks, De Grasse started standing. He finished in 10.9 seconds, caught the eye of Durham-area track coach Tony Sharpe and, over the next three years, became the most promising Canadian sprinter since Donovan Bailey and Bruny Surin.

De Grasse currently holds the Canadian record in the 200-metre with a time of 20.03 seconds, and in May he became the first Canadian to run a sub-10-second 100-metre race since the aforementioned Bailey and Surin.

But those accomplishments have nothing on what he managed at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in June. Competing in both the 100-metre and 200-metre finals, De Grasse turned in mind-blowing times of 9.75 and 19.58, respectively, winning both events. The times were wind-aided (he had a slight tailwind) and can’t be counted as official Canadian records, but they rank as the seventh-fastest all-conditions 100-metre and six-fastest all-conditions 200-metre in human history.

In short, De Grasse has a legitimate shot not just at Bailey’s 9.84 100-metre Canadian record, but also the likes of Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt when he faces off against them at the World Championships in August and Rio Olympics in 2016.

Best result

His double at the NCAA finals. Check it out for yourself:

Biggest competition

De Grasse’s times at the NCAA championships put him up among the planet’s most elite sprinters, a group that includes Gatlin and Bolt.

Here’s an interesting fact

Both De Grasse and his coach at the University of Southern California, Caryl Smith Gilbert, think the young Canadian still has plenty of room to improve. In a media conference call earlier this month, De Grasse told me that his “whole zero to 30 metres wasn’t that great” at the NCAA championships. His coach agreed: “I didn’t put him in the weight room at a maximum capacity this year,” Smith Gilbert said. “I wanted him to learn how to lift properly. We didn’t lift heavy, we just lifted to get it done. So his drive and his acceleration isn’t where it needs to be at this point… because I knew I have a little time [to develop him].”

Prediction

A podium and maybe a new Canadian record.

For more Pan Am stories, including a look at Canada’s track and field renaissance by the numbers, download the latest issue of Sportsnet magazine.

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