De Grasse and Brown shake handsPhoto Credit: Darryl Dyck
Photo Credit: Darryl Dyck

Sprinting to Tokyo: De Grasse and Brown’s recent successes

For Canadian sprint sensations Andre De Grasse and Aaron Brown, the road to Tokyo 2020 has, at times, been a little rocky.

But with just less than a year to go, both have been enjoying some sizzling success.

Andre De Grasse

De Grasse‘s stardom rose at Rio 2016 where he became the first Canadian to win an Olympic medal in all three sprint events – 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay.

His bronze in the 100m made him Canada’s first Olympic medallist in that event since Donovan Bailey 20 years prior.

His silver medal in the 200m made him the first Canadian to reach the Olympic podium in that event since Percy Williams at Amsterdam 1928.

He capped the Games when he and his teammates smashed a 20-year-old national record in the 4x100m relay, winning bronze in 37.64 seconds.

Andre De Grasse closes the final lag of the 4x100 relay

Canada’s Andre De Grasse, right, takes the baton from Brendon Rodney on the last exchange of the 4x100m relay in Rio on August 19, 2016. (COC photo/Stephen Hosier)

That Olympic debut left him with a taste of success but still hungry for gold.

De Grasse’s career had an unexpected break when hamstring injuries forced him to the sidelines for the 2017 World Championships and most of the 2018 season.

Time away from the track gave De Grasse a different perspective of sport, as well as time to celebrate the birth of his daughter Yuri and the opportunity to regain focus.

Now less than a year away from Tokyo 2020, this summer was crucial for De Grasse to not only regain his confidence on the track but to achieve results to get him up to speed for Tokyo 2020.

Aaron Brown

Brown was also on the 4x100m relay team that won bronze at Rio 2016, a highlight in a career that has had its share of setbacks.

Akeem Haynes Aaron Brown, Brendon Rodney and Andre De Grasse pose with bronze medals on the podium

Canada’s Andre De Grasse, left to right, Brendon Rodney, Aaron Brown and Akeem Haynes show off their 4×100-metre bronze medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Saturday, August 20, 2016. It’s taken eight years, but Akeem Haynes is a football player once again. The Olympic sprinter traded his track spikes for cleats last month, signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Despite not having played football since graduating from high school in 2010, Haynes said his pursuit of a CFL career isn’t an experiment.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

He started 2017 with a quadriceps injury from which he wouldn’t fully recover until just a couple of weeks before the Canadian championships. He false started in the 100m, but did qualify for the world championships in the 200m, only to be disqualified in the first round for a lane violation.

He was discouraged for his future in the sport.

But while De Grasse was injured, Brown was flying the flag for Canada and his 2018 season was the start of something special.

Aaron Brown with Canadian flag on his back

Canada’s Aaron Brown drapes himself in the Canadian flag after crossing the finish line ahead of Barbados’ Jaquone Hoyte on the anchor leg to secure a gold medal in the men’s 4×100 metre relay during the NACAC Championships in Toronto on Sunday, August 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

His perseverance won him 200m silver at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast and he became just the third Canadian to ever break the 20-second barrier in the 200m.

A much needed silver lining for Brown as he looks towards Tokyo 2020.

Head-to-Head in 2019

With multiple setbacks comes multiple victories and this season De Grasse and Brown both have shown early signs of success.

At the Diamond League meet in Shanghai, a 200m showdown between the two Canadians came out in Brown’s favour as he crossed the lineย a split of a second before De Grasse.

Feeding off the momentum of 200m victory in Rabat over reigning world champion Ramil Guliyev, De Grasse posted season-best times in Ostrava. He ran 19.91 seconds – his fastest since Rio 2016 – to win the 200m over American Christian Coleman and later in the day clocked 10.05 seconds in the 100m.

At the Diamond League meet in Lausanne, Brown and De Grasse faced off with another speedy American, Noah Lyles. About a half hour before the 200m, Brown posted a season-best time of 10.07 seconds in the 100m.

The Canadians fought shoulder to shoulder and both went sub-20 seconds, with De Grasse crossing the line 0.03 seconds ahead of Brown, 19.92 to 19.95, putting them both within the top-10 200m sprinters this season.

At the Canadian Championship held in Montreal, Brown beat De Grasse by three thousandths of a second, running the 100m final within 10.021 seconds. This win gave Brown his 2nd Canadian 100m title.

They faced each other again in the 100m race at ISTAF Berlin, an IAAF World Challenge Meeting. De Grasse captured first place with a season-best record of 9.97 seconds. Brown finished in fourth place in 10.08 seconds.

What’s Next?

De Grasse and Brown are the only active Canadian sprinters to have run the 100m in under 10 seconds. De Grasse did it as recently as September 1st in Berlin, where he ran in 9.97 seconds.

Aaron Brown and Andre De Grasse laugh together

Aaron Brown, right, celebrates his first-place finish with third-place finisher Andre De Grasse, both of Toronto, during the Canada-China challenge men’s 100 metre race at the Harry Jerome International Track Classic, in Burnaby, B.C., on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Their next challenge will be at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar running from late September to early October.

Less than a year away from Tokyo 2020, these speedy lads are focused and ready for more sizzling successes in the near future.