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Andre De Grasse inspired by Canadian kids

Andre De Grasse signs autographs at a track and field championship in Toronto. © Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Andre De Grasse, the Canadian sprint star, was signing autographs at a recent track and field meet in Toronto. He stood against the track railing while a crowd of schoolchildren thrust hats, t-shirts and even shoes to be signed.

The Canadian sprint star has raced on the world’s biggest stage. But it was at a children’s track meet that he realized how much of an impact he’s having on the sport.

“This is the first time [I’ve seen anything like this],” said De Grasse, “I never thought I was such an inspiration like this, and that kids looked up to me. It’s pretty cool, I’m pretty speechless about it.”

Andre De Grasse holds Canadian flag after winning race at Pan Am in Toronto, 2015.

Canada's Andre de Grasse celebrates after winning the final of the men’s 100m race at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, Wednesday, July 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

The 21-year-old from Markham, Ont., is the most successful sprinter Canada has had in almost two decades. He won gold in both the 200 metres in Birmingham, England and the 100 metre in June.

The young star is getting his first taste of fame in his rookie season as a professional athlete. But the bright lights of the global meets, he said, don’t compare to coming back home.

“It’s totally different. This is my country, this is Toronto, this is Canada, these kids look up to me, you never really see that in other places as much as herem so it’s pretty cool, De Grasse said. “They inspire me right now to keep it going, because they’re just telling me ‘Go Andre, go Andre!’ That’s kind of cool to me.”