Andre De Grasse's mom never doubted her son would win Olympic gold
Sprinter from Markham, Ont., now has five medals from two Olympic games
Most parents would probably say they're proud of their kids, but after Andre De Grasse's first Olympic gold medal win on Wednesday, his mother, Beverly, is feeling pride on another level.
The 26-year-old Markham, Ont., sprinter surged across the finish line in the men's 200-metre final in Tokyo with a Canadian record time of 19.62 seconds — and his mother is still smiling about it.
"I'm super, super proud and super, super excited," she told reporters outside her home in Pickering, Ont., Wednesday afternoon.
"I feel like I'm on a high and I don't know how to come down."
Though the race was undoubtedly tight — American Kenneth Bednarek won silver with a time of 19.68 — Beverly De Grasse said she never once doubted her son. The two were beaming at each other on a video call not long after De Grasse celebrated his win from the track, draped in the Canadian flag.
"He was so excited, so happy," she said. "Andre puts out his best when it counts, when it matters."
The race of his life
De Grasse's win marks the first time in 93 years that a Canadian has sprinted to gold in the men's 200 metre — Percy Williams did it in 1928 at the Games in Amsterdam — and it's only the third time in Olympic history that a Canadian has captured gold in the event.
De Grasse now has five Olympic medals, including a bronze in the 100-metre race in Tokyo. He's won a medal in every event he's competed in over two Games.
In his post-race interview, De Grasse told CBC Sports this was the race of his life.
"I'm so happy. I'm so proud of myself," he said. "I finally got it done. I've been working hard for this moment for the past five years."
Now that her son has ascended to the pinnacle of the sport, Beverly De Grasse couldn't help but laugh thinking back to when Andre first said he wanted to try out track and field. At first, she thought he just wanted to get out of school.
"I just thought he wanted to skip school and have fun with his friends," she said with a smile.
Welcomed into 'club of champions'
But when Tony Sharpe, former Canadian Olympian and head coach at the Speed Academy, saw De Grasse in one of his first races, he knew there was something special there. Not long after that, De Grasse started training at the developmental track and field club in Pickering.
In his first provincial high school track meet and with no instruction, De Grasse came in fifth, Sharpe said. After just two months of training, he went to another meet and won.
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So what sets De Grasse apart?
"It's God-given, man. It's a God-given gift he was born with," Sharpe said.
"He's the most talented sprinter I've ever observed."
There's no question De Grasse's latest win has captured the Canadian consciousness, with social media awash in proud posts on Wednesday.
Hometown HERO! Your City of Markham is so proud of you. Congratulations also to Beverley De Grasse. A wonderful and deserving family. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeAreMarkham?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WeAreMarkham</a><br><br>🥇🇨🇦<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/topoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#topoli</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Olympics?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Olympics</a> <a href="https://t.co/mcszY5Msx2">pic.twitter.com/mcszY5Msx2</a>—@frankscarpitti
And though the Bank of Canada dropped plans for a $200 bill back in 2006, this 200-metre win sure helps bolster an argument.
Put Andre DeGrasse’s face on the 200 dollar bill.—@3rdPeriodSuits
Two-time Canadian Olympic medallist Donovan Bailey said Wednesday he was happy to welcome De Grasse to the "club of champions."
"I'm probably more happy than he is," Bailey said. "This is incredible. This is such an amazing accomplishment for Andre, for his family, for the country, for the track program."
Gold medals inspire interest in sport
This is a critical time for the sport's development in Canada, with so few people able to participate since school sports have been put on hold throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, said Helen Manning, chair of the Athletics Canada board of directors.
She said Wednesday there's hope that De Grasse's win will continue to drive interest in track and field.
"There's no question every time we get a gold medal, it inspires somebody to say 'I want to do that,'" she said.
With any luck, De Grasse will continue to inspire for years to come. Sharpe said he figures De Grasse has another decade of competitive sprinting in his legs, something Beverly De Grasse agrees with.
"I think he should have at least two more Olympics in him, hopefully," she said.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
With files from Devin Heroux