Andre De Grasse makes statement with 3-medal showing in Rio
National track and field program ‘working very well,’ says Olympic champion Donovan Bailey
By Doug Harrison, CBC Sports
If, in fact, Usain Bolt has run his last Olympic race by completing the triple-triple — gold-medal performances in the 100 metres, 200 and 4x100 relay at three straight Games — then the Andre De Grasse era is off to a smashing start.
The 21-year-old sprinter from Markham, Ont., needed only a few days in Rio de Janeiro to become a household name outside of Canada and get people talking about De Grasse as the heir apparent to Bolt, who solidified his place in history. "The greatest sprinter that ever lived, a living legend," in the words of 1996 Canadian Olympic sprint champion Donovan Bailey.
De Grasse followed up his bronze and personal-best time of 9.91 seconds in the 100 with silver in the 200 before running the anchor leg with Aaron Brown, Akeem Haynes and Brendon Rodney to set a Canadian record of 37.64 for relay bronze after the United States team was disqualified for an illegal baton exchange.
"He's clearly part of the sub-[nine-second] club [in the relay]," Bailey told CBC Sports in reference to De Grasse, the first-ever Canadian to win three sprint medals in the same Olympics and the recipient of three of Canada's six track and field medals.
On July 11, Athletics Canada revealed its goal was to win "two or three medals" in Rio from its 65 athletes, the "best" collection of talent to ever represent the country at a Summer Olympics, according to head coach Peter Eriksson.
Remember, Canada had two bronze medals in track and field at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Derek Drouin's bronze in high jump was the lone athletics medal from London four years ago.
"They felt that they under performed at the Games in London," Eriksson said. "Their mindset, the whole time since has been about performance."
Behind the scenes, officials were hoping for more in Brazil, given Canada's eight medals at the 2015 world championships.
"We just want to go out and prove to the world that we can compete with the best," De Grasse said. "Everyone always talks about the U.S., the Jamaicans, they're always winning all the medals and we just want to be a part of that conversation."
Still, Eriksson said the team in Rio exceeded expectations "big-time."
"Because our [goal] has always been two to three medals, and even though we did well at the worlds last year, we can't change it to say, 'Well, we did eight, now we're going to do eight again.' It doesn't work that way because this a much tougher environment," Eriksson said.
"The national program is working very well. Canadian kids can look at this as an option," said Bailey of the Olympics. "If your dream is to be an Olympic champion or Olympian, you're in great hands right now with these young kids that are leading us."
The future is bright for Canada's track and field team, looking ahead to Tokyo 2020.
"I would like to see Melissa Bishop continue, Damian Warner, and of course Andre . . . Aaron Brown," Eriksson said. "There are quite a few of those athletes who are up there that will continue."
Here's a breakdown of some of the other key medals in Rio by some of Canada's athletes and those internationally:
Derek Drouin, high jump
The 26-year-old from Corunna, Ont., won with a season-best 2.38 metres, just shy of the Olympic record of 2.40. He was the first Canadian to win the event since Duncan McNaughton (1932, Los Angeles) and first since Bailey in 1996 to win track and field gold.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CAN?src=hash">#CAN</a> Derek Drouin clears 2.38m. He is guaranteed a medal in high jump. Which colour remains to be seen. <a href="https://t.co/UFzWSGggFu">https://t.co/UFzWSGggFu</a>—@CBCOlympics
Brianne Theisen-Eaton, heptathlon
She became the first Canadian to win a medal in the event with a bronze, rallying with strong performances in long jump and javelin while setting a season best in the 800 metres for a final score of 6,653 points.
Damian Warner, decathlon
The London, Ont., native's bronze medal is Canada's second-ever decathlon medal and first since Dave Steen's bronze in Seoul, South Korea in 1988. He finished the 10-discipline event with 8,666 points.
Ashton Eaton, decathlon
The American world record holder (9,045 points), and husband of Brianne Theisen-Eaton, successfully defended his gold medal from London with 8,893 points.
United States powers to gold in women's 4x100 as Allyson Felix earns historic 5th gold medal<a href="https://t.co/ofBABg6XFx">https://t.co/ofBABg6XFx</a> <a href="https://t.co/2bhxFDagoT">pic.twitter.com/2bhxFDagoT</a>—@CBCOlympics
Allyson Felix, 4x100 relay
The 30-year-old sprinter led the United States women to a 41.01-second finish for her fifth Olympic medal, making Felix the most successful female track and field athlete of all time.
Thiago Braz, pole vault
The hometown crowd went wild at the Olympic Stadium when the 22-year-old Brazilian stunned world No. 1 Renaud Lavillenie of France with a jump of 6.03 metres to win gold. He become Brazil's first male athletics champion in 32 years.
Mo Farah, 5,000m and 10,000m
Despite being tripped by training partner Galen Rupp of the United States, the 33-year-old middle distance runner became the first British athlete to win three medals on the track and just the fourth man to defend an Olympic 10,000 title. He then went on to win the 5,000 gold a week later. He hasn't lost a major race since the 2011 world championships.
With files from The Canadian Press