This new phenom, who won the 100 and 200 at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, is not built like a Mack Truck, like Johnson was. He’s only 5’10”. He may not be on drugs like Johnson was. He runs super fast, maybe not 9.84 Bailey super fast, but he’s just a kid. Barring injury the speeds should improve.
America gets to enjoy this kid’s rise too. He’s attending the University of Southern California. He’s on a scholarship, majoring in Sociology, when not racing around.
Like many youth in Canada and the States, however, De Grasse admits he was going nowhere fast. But he got a break. He booted up and the Milliken Mills high school student tried out for track – and caught the eye of famed Canadian sprinter of yore, Tony Sharpe.
Of course let’s not think us so-called great high school athletes can really relate to Andre. Truly, how many of us, wearing loose shorts, and from a standing start, can run a 10.90 in their very first 100-meter race? Hmmm? Like none of us?
Andre’s life, and perhaps Tony Sharpe’s, who took a bronze medal in the ’84 Los Angeles Olympics in the 4 x 100, were changed forever after his jaw-dropping-hair-raising sprint debut. For Andre, after tutelage from Sharpe, had his self-confidence grow, and now had a positive direction. Because, as mentioned, De Grasse declared he had, prior to his sprint career, “...been going down the wrong path.”
Now his path leads to double trouble.
We can’t call them all also-rans yet, but Andre obviously runs the 200 meters like blazes too. In fact his 20.16 in the 200 is one of the fastest times for 2015. What makes Andre so atypical is not only his stellar times, but he gets these without great starts off the blocks. Anson Henry, another ex-sprinter from Canada, pointed that fact out when viewing Andre in a qualifying heat before his eventual win in the 100, at the Pan Ams, in a time of 10.06. He also says Andre’s lean frame, so unlike the deeply and densely muscled torsos of many, “doesn’t have the power per se, but he’s very elastic, he’s very bouncy.” He’s clearly a great finisher and Henry adds if he’s within arm’s length of the leaders out of the blocks, he’ll beat most of the top sprinters at the finish line. Donovan Bailey’s impressed at how Andre can hold his top end speed.
Now, back to drugs.
Will Andre run “clean?” Can he stay off the path of synthetic anabolic steroids, such as Stanozolol, that sealed Johnson’s fate, turning him from deity to disaster, instantly? (Andre has taken drugs, he admits – but party drugs, when hanging with that bad crowd, before his running career began.) If anybody can keep De Grasse on the straight and narrow, it could be Sharpe. Tony admitted to the Dubin inquiry, to steroid use. But he saw the error of his ways and is now a much respected sprinting mentor in Canada. He’s a great example of how one can turn their life around, without the need of stimulants.
(And Andre feels extremely predisposed to heed the wisdom of his USC Track coach, Caryl Smith Gilbert. She, along with Quincy Watts, assistant coach, sprints, were the main reasons he opted for USC. His path to possible world-beating sprinting would seem to be in good hands with these two, and Sharpe.)
His mother, Beverley, succinctly sums up Sharpe’s role in her son’s turnaround from dead-end kid to major-meet threat: “You saved his life...”
For track fans everywhere, we should be thankful. Sharpe says Andre De Grasse is the best pure talent he’s ever seen, and that includes Ben and Donovan, and will run amazing times going forward. Mark this down. The kid from Markham (Toronto) now at USC will be history in the making.
Andre’s near-term goals are awesome, awe inspiring. He wants to run under 10 for the 100 and 20 for the 200 – this 2015. To run that hot? How cool would that be?
Next stop: Beijing IAAF World Championships, August 22. There, he’d be running (should he qualify through the heats) against the likes of Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and America’s Justin Gatlin: The big boys. The fastest boys. The experienced-in-excellence boys.
And we have to do a sidebar here. We gotta talk drugs again. Approach the bench, athletes.
The World Anti-Doping Agency has heard via ARD, a German Television channel and the world’s largest public broadcaster, that there exists a database of IAAF athletes showing 5,000 of them have revealed, via 12,000 blood tests, extraordinary levels of blood doping. So far, elite athletes in events from the 800m up to the marathon seem to form the bulk of the 5,000. (Let us hope sprinters are paying attention to this bad news and stick to apple, orange, or grapefruit juices. No “juicing” of any other kind.) And the finger seems to be pointed primarily at Russian and Kenyan athletes. Australian doping experts, Michael Ashenden and Robin Parisotto have checked some of the stats and added this bombshell: “At least a third of the medal-winners at world championships and Olympics between 2001 and 2012 had given suspicious tests.”
Let’s finish on a high note.
If Andre De Grasse, with just three years of competitive sprinting under his belt, who is still “learning the blocks” – can make it there in Beijing, he can make it anywhere. He could dash in a flash into prominence - via his own untarnished power - to his own unvarnished glory.
Now that would be a dream. A super-speed story.