Q&A: Andre De Grasse on what he learned in 2020, what he expects in 2021

Andre De Grasse. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse is himself a brand and a business. That business consists of multiple endorsement deals, charitable foundations and, of course, his day job, competing with the elite 100- and 200-metre runners in the world.

But De Grasse found himself with an abundance of free time when the 2020 Olympics were postponed a year and he could no longer compete as he had planned.

Before the year came to a close, I caught up with him to find out how he channeled his energy in 2020 without the ability to compete, and what he expects the 2021 track and field season to consist of.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length.

SPORTSNET: After training this year in the U.S.A., you’re back in Canada. What’s it like to be back home, with people that are important, especially when we’re all trying to reconnect with people that are important during these times?

ANDRE DE GRASSE: To be honest, you really take it for granted. Throughout my career, just being so busy all the time and not getting the chance to really connect back with family and friends. And now you just see people with COVID-19, and people are getting sick and dying.

You really got to just appreciate that they’re here and spend time with them, you know? So I came back to Toronto and I just got to catch up with family and friends, and see what they're up to. A couple of my family members, they’ve lost jobs because of COVID. So that’s kind of what I’ve been going through the past couple of months.

SN: You’ve been blessed to have so many partners to help you throughout the pandemic. What’s the deal with the latest one?

DE GRASSE: I partnered up with GoDaddy. I’ve built my websites with them, and my foundation is through them. I know they usually work with the Raptors, but I got a call, and they were interested in working with me. I had fun shooting a commercial with them.

When they told me, “We want you to shine the light on small businesses and entrepreneurs,” I was all for it. I am trying to use my platform to help entrepreneurs, help small businesses, especially during this time. COVID-19 has knocked them down a little bit. Carly and Anthony, who were in the commercial with me, they’re actually really small business owners. So I got to get a few tips from them and learn what they’re going through.

SN: What’s this year been like for you?

DE GRASSE: I was a little bit shocked and disappointed that the Olympics weren’t happening. But, you know, I really kind of put that in the back of my mind because of everything else that was going on in the world. So I was like, to myself, “That’s not a big deal.” I mean, “If this is it — if there’s no Olympics — I’ve been to one. I got a chance to go to one and be able to get three medals.” So I really just kind of put that at the back of my mind. This year is all about trying to use my platform in any way possible and trying to just look out for people.

So I do a lot of charity initiatives. This year we gave a lot of money for different causes. So it was just cool to be a part of that. Now I’m just like everybody else — just hoping that we can go back to some type of normalcy next year, that the Tokyo 2021 Games can happen, because I’m definitely looking forward to that.

SN: What have you heard about the 2021 track season?

DE GRASSE: I know they’ve been talking about trying to put us in a bubble, have people take all the tests before you get there — before you get on the plane. And then when you get there as well, you touch down for a day and then take another test. So that’s what they’ve been talking about trying to do to have a season and then, of course, also for the Games as well.

But, you know, it’s tough. I don’t know what it’s going to be like — if there’s going to be fans or not. So, really, you just got to stay focused and stay ready for the moment. So, in the meantime, I just started back training last month and just been trying to just get back into the groove and get back into shape.

SN: How has training changed?

DE GRASSE: We lift weights in an indoor facility. So even when we’re lifting, can’t take off your mask. Every time we go in the building I put on a mask and then it’s like so hard to breathe while you’re working out, but you got to keep going. Keep your mask on the whole time.

And then when we get to the track as well — because we actually train at a university, so we’re on school property. They have allowed us — the athletes — to take off our mask when we get to the track. But then, like, our coaches have to keep their mask on. So definitely it’s been an adjustment for everybody.

SN: Your main job is being a dad. What’s that been like during the pandemic?

DE GRASSE: As a father, it’s kind of good because I got to spend more time with my daughter and my family, get to know her more now. Before all this happened, I think I missed stuff. I was like, “She’s doing this and doing that,” because I’m always traveling, going to Europe or Asia, Africa to go compete because of my job. But now I’m seeing her. I’m like, “What, you do that?” I couldn’t believe my eyes. So it’s definitely fun being in that moment.

SN: What’s the biggest thing that you’ve learned through this period?

DE GRASSE: Going through all the stuff that’s been going on, I think the thing I’ve learned is the greatest gift you can give someone is your time. So that was my takeaway from this whole thing. Time is really of the essence right now. You got to spread your wings as much as you can for people because like you see on TV — it’s like, wow, you never know what could happen.

Now we just spread my time, try to even it out here and there — whether that’s, you know, shooting a commercial with GoDaddy, spending time with family and friends, or working on my career, my job. So I just wanted to try to be responsible and adjust and adapt to certain situations because I felt like before all this, I didn’t. It was just so hard for me to navigate to do things I don’t have time for. But now that I’ve realized that, I just try to do my best to spread my wings in different directions.

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