Andre De Grasse wants to win gold — now
'I'm not going to wait until 2020,' says 21-year-old ahead of Sunday's 100-metre showdown
By Scott Leitch, CBC Sports
After only one season on the professional track and field circuit, Markham, Ont., sprinter Andre De Grasse is already looking to dethrone the sport's most recognizable figure, Usain Bolt, in Sunday's 100-metre final at 9:25 p.m. ET (live on cbc.ca/olympics, CBC Rio 2016 app, CBC TV, and CBC Olympic Games Virtual Reality app).
- WATCH: Men's 100-metre semifinals tonight at 8 p.m. ET
- WATCH: Men's 100-metre final tonight at 9:25 p.m. ET
- WATCH: Donovan Bailey on Andre De Grasse
"I came out here to try to win gold," the 21-year-old told CBC Sports.
De Grasse surprised many with a bronze medal a year ago at the world championships.
The first-time Olympian took the opening step toward gold Saturday morning, coming from behind after a weak start to win his heat in 10.04 seconds.
"I was a little bit tentative. I didn't want to false start at my first Olympics. So I was a little bit nervous coming out. I knew I had my top-end speed so I relied on that. My heat wasn't too hard so I just wanted to cruise in and get ready for the semifinals [Sunday]."
De Grasse's time was off his season-best 9.99, which he set at July's Canadian Olympic trials.
It will take more than that to land himself on the podium. The former NCAA champion will have to contend with 2004 Olympic gold-medallist Justin Gatlin, who holds the fastest time in the world this year at 9.80.
Bolt still man to beat
Bolt remains the overwhelming favourite. The Jamaican superstar has won the previous two Olympics with times rivaling his own world record of 9.58 that he set at the 2009 world championships in Berlin.
But De Grasse isn't intimidated by his rivals. Many view Sunday night's final as a battle between Bolt and Gatlin, with the other five sprinters racing for the bronze medal. However, De Grasse feels his time is now.
"I'm a competitor, so I feel like I have a good chance to take down these guys," said De Grasse. "I'm not going to wait until 2020. I want to do it now."
The newcomer first needs to get to the final. He'll line up in the lane next to Bolt in the second of three semifinals Sunday, which are set for 8 p.m. ET.
The most anticipated final of the Olympics will follow at 9:25 p.m. ET.
De Grasse will need to finish in the top two of his semifinal, or be one of the two fastest losers of all three heats to advance to the final.