Andre De Grasse
Written by David Grossman
When Andre De Grasse was a youngster, he had thoughts of becoming a pilot.
De Grasse, in a candid discussion about his future, said he liked the idea of flying – but, outside of playing a variety of action video games, he couldn’t recall what it was that perked his interest in speed and velocity.
And then there’s the other kind of quickness and acceleration – what you see when a sprinter starts at one end and finishes at the other in a mind-boggling time. De Grasse has done it – and will likely do it again.
As Markham’s pride and joy, and with a city street named in his honor following a dazzling multi-medal performance at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, De Grasse has several stories to share on the topic of momentum.
Tough and strong-minded, De Grasse is also the kind of individual who is focused, tenacious and charismatic when a conversation emanates on the topic of being the best of the best. There’s no arrogance, just a strong desire to improve and excel.
“I have been fortunate to benefit from great coaches,” said De Grasse, a discreet individual with a composed expression of confidence. “When you have people encouraging you, and you work hard, there’s no end to what you can accomplish.
In a 100-metre race, De Grasse knows he’s quick – and has proved it on the international scale. But, he’ll be the first to stare you in the face and say his finest is yet to come.
Young and energetic, De Grasse has come a long way in a short period of time.
He’s also quite clear about having some un-finished business: to prove he has the potential to be the fastest man on the planet. Mixing optimism with faith and certainty, De Grasse just has to look at his arm for a reminder. There is the word “hope” and more words in the form of a prayer clearly evident in a tattoo.
Much has been said about his gifted talent, and De Grasse understands there is pressure that goes along with the importance of fitness, dedication and persistence. But he has other components that bode well beyond the oval track.
A graduate of Milliken Mills High School, where he started racing in Grade 11 wearing a pair of running shoes and basketball shorts, De Grasse then advanced to a short stint at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. All he did was set five records in the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Once people heard about De Grasse, universities lined up hoping his choice for higher education would land in their city. A diligent individual with a thirst for academic excellence, and backed by a strong family, De Grasse chose to pursue a Degree at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
“It was a quick way to grow up, learn and people gave me a chance,” said De Grasse, studying Sociology and working his way towards a Degree in Social Work. “I love California, have lots of people to thank and someday hope to return the favors and help others.”
At age 22, De Grasse was the first sprinter in Canadian history to win three medals in a single Olympics. Yet, his only prominent individual gold medal, running against the best on the world circuit, came in the 100 metres at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.
De Grasse has other jewellery, from the bronze, the following year, at Rio Games to the bronze earned at the World championship in Beijing. And there’s also the silver medal won over 200 metres at the Rio Games.
Add on prestigious performances as the reigning 100 and 200-metres champ at the National Collegiate Athletic Association finals and Canada’s 200-metre record holder. It’s a list far from completion.
De Grasse knows life can be full of changes and challenges. Aware of his success, De Grasse is always looking beyond the track and plans to get more involved in charitable initiatives that benefit disadvantaged children.