In undoubtedly the most heated 100m final among the leaders of the present generation, and possibly the strongest field in history of athletics, 20-year old Andre De Grasse came away with a bronze medal proving he is the future of sprinting.
De Grasse shares the award with U.S. collegiate rival and friend Trayvon Bromell of the United States, both men 20 years old, crossing the line at 9.92 seconds, but behind winner and now three-time World Champion Usain Bolt (9.79s) and American Justin Gatlin (9.80s).
“I am speechless,” the young Canadian who has attracted fans with his natural talent, humility and a quiet, burning ambition, exclaimed after announcing his arrival on the global stage with his biggest result yet.
“It is an honour to bring Canada back on the podium at 100 metres after some time. It is incredible and unexpected as this is my first World Championships.”
De Grasse was pleased for Bromell, the athlete he beat to secure the 100m/200m NCAA double earlier this year to first gain major international prominence.
“I am also happy for Trayvon. We made it together and I hope we are the future of this event.”
In the semifinals, De Grasse had the daunting task to start one lane removed from Bolt. The Jamaican superstar had a slip and needed to catch up to De Grasse before both finished in 9.96s. De Grasse’s personal best heading into Beijing was 9.95s. He ran under 10 seconds in all three of his 100m races at the World Championships. That is the level expected of would-be champions in today’s climate.
“It was a long season and it was hard to predict the time (for the final),” De Grasse said after winning his medal from way out in lane nine. A three-way tie for 9.99s in the semifinals put an extra competitor on the track in the final, every man a sub-10 second monster. “I am very pleased by my personal best, to run side by side with such stars always pushes and motivates you to improve.”
While he admits to being a track history novice, De Grasse is catching up quickly. He receives praise regularly from the likes of Canadian legends Donovan Bailey and Bruny Surin. The latter individual was the last Canadian to stand on a 100m World Championship podium under the maple leaf, running 9.84s at Seville 1999 to equal the national mark held by the former, a record that is surely doomed in the era of De Grasse.
The young Canadian knows that he is now carrying a country’s sprinting aspirations on his shoulders. There are technical adjustments to be made, strength to be gained before he can truly strike fear into the hearts of Bolt or Gatlin, two men who have circled each other in recent years as the Jamaica versus USA rivalry hit new highs (or lows, depending on whom you ask). But before he looks too far to the future, the 100m/200m Pan Am Games Champion, De Grasse, realizes he has more work to do in Beijing.
“I have to focus on the (men’s 4x100m) relay and then we will plan the preparations towards next season.”
De Grasse is not running the 200m in Beijing, surely bringing relief to many experienced sprinters who are now familiar with the name, but more importantly, the astonishing pace, confidence and competitiveness of the Markham, Ontario runner.
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