Shortly after turning pro back in December, Canadian sprint star Andre De Grasse wrote a Player’s Own Voice piece for CBC Sports to explain his decision. With his Olympic spot now secured, De Grasse reveals what his goals are for Rio and beyond in an exclusive video below. This will also be aired Saturday on Road to the Olympic Games (CBC Sports, 2 p.m. ET).
Up to this point in my life, I haven’t had to make too many critical decisions. At least nowhere near a decision as big as this. I actually feel like I’ve matured a lot with the responsibility of taking something like this into my own hands and making it happen.
It’s official – I’m Andre De Grasse: professional track and field athlete.
How did this all come about? It’s pretty interesting actually. I know I told everybody that I wasn’t going to be going professional until after my senior year at USC, but things have a way of moving in a different direction when certain points are brought to your attention. Maybe some people can relate.
I mean this in no arrogant way at all – but last season, it’s like nothing could go wrong. At the NCAA Championships, I had a great performance as an underdog. At the Pan Am Games, I had a great performance as a favourite, with the pressures of not disappointing the home crowd (pressure I downplayed of course).
Then at the world championships, I was able to stand on the podium with the likes of Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin with a bronze medal from the 100-metres around my neck.
It’s like the stars were lining up for me to do something other than put my USC uniform back on. “What did I just do?” all of a sudden turned into, “What am I going to do?”
I knew that I had to get my degree. Not only because my mom would kill me if I didn’t, but also because I know I can’t run forever, and eventually I’m going to have to have something to fall back on to be productive after my track career. At first, I thought I had to choose between being a student or being a professional sprinter. I think it was a real game changer when I found out I could go professional and still be in school. Suddenly, going professional became a real option.
But I liked being in school. It seemed like a part of my life that I wanted to just see through as a regular student-athlete. I took a lot of pride in being a Trojan, and I enjoyed going into battle draped in the cardinal and gold.
Being a professional always came across as such a giant step for me. A little intimidating when I thought about it at first. I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to handle it. And yeah, I heard whispers of what kind of money I could make, but I didn’t know if the numbers were for real.
Those whispers eventually became louder and louder though. It was like, “Wait, I can make how much!”
Enough to make anybody have to re-evaluate.
I distinctly remember coming home from school one day. That morning, I woke up for 5 a.m. practice to do hills. It was rough that morning too because I was up pretty late the night before writing a 10-page paper. Had a full day of classes and had to walk home carrying my air-board because the battery was dead. All I wanted to do was just lay down somewhere as soon once I got home.
I share an apartment with three students I didn’t really know and split a bedroom with one of them. I opened the door and slowly made my way to my room, kicking pizza boxes and soda cans out of the way. I stopped and took a glance around. As I took in the smell, I said, “What is that?”
I saw the dirty plates, liquor bottles, scattered clothing and a space where privacy was no option. In that very moment, I asked why I was doing this to myself.
I now realized that I needed to take advantage of some of the things that I kept hearing I was eligible for with the success that I had last season. I didn’t feel good about living the way that I was living, and it had actually gotten to the point where I had outgrown having to deal with circumstances like that. I remember breaking down my living situation to a friend of mine and he laughed and said,“Yo, aren’t you supposed to be the third fastest man in the world?”
I must say making the decision to become a professional was such a huge lift off of my shoulders. I really wasn’t happy. I actually felt a little depressed going through every day and thinking about things that were missing in my life, and how a lot of things could be so much easier for me with one simple decision.
But who knows, maybe if I had decided to go pro earlier, I would have somehow been questioning whether or not I rushed into the decision. Or maybe I would have been wondering whether or not I made the right choice. I guess in a way it’s a good thing that I waited. I literally had gotten to the point where it was absolutely clear to me that I had to declare myself a professional. ASAP.
And now here I am.
So how does this change my plans leading into Rio? Well, instead of my race schedule being set and me conforming to it, I will be able to pick and choose my races strategically with my coach and my agent to cater to me and my end goal.
Getting around Los Angeles has always been a hassle since I’ve been here. No more Uber or air-boarding to get where I need to go. I can get myself a car and drive. I don’t have to be stuck in a living situation where I am forced to cater to other people’s living habits. I can have my own place where I can keep my surroundings the way I please.
Eat better. Sleep better. Be happier. This is the short list, but to sum it up, I’m now in a position where my mind can be in the right place for me to be able to make my graduation walk and make my pursuit towards that podium in Rio. My life can be in order, and my mind clear.
I’m excited. I mean how can you not be excited when the Olympics are approaching, but the feeling has grown a lot more now that I see these changes coming into my life. I want that Olympic medal so bad. I gotta have it.
A lot of people may want to see how I react now that I’m not an unknown anymore. It’s hard to hide now with the stats that I have, so there are people out there who are actually gunning for me. It’s like they believe that I’m not hungry anymore. They couldn’t be any more wrong.
I don’t have an Olympic medal yet. And I’m still not considered the best in the world. So yeah, I’m hungry. Until I have those things, you better believe I’m hungry.
Rio 2016. Time to eat. Let’s get it.