Andre De Grasse launches foundation to help young athletes
3-time Olympic sprint medallist wants to leave legacy on and off the track
Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse wants his legacy to extend far beyond the track.
He's won a lot of races, has many awards and records to his name and is now a star on the sporting landscape. But he wants it to be about more than the medals.
On Thursday afternoon, just steps away from the track at Toronto's York University where his talents were first discovered and perfected, the three-time Olympic medallist announced the establishment of the Andre De Grasse Family Foundation.
"I can't believe it's been six years since I competed here at York University," De Grasse said. "I'm just happy to be here and launch this foundation."
Hundreds of high school athletes who were in the middle of competing in a track meet stopped what they were doing and cheered as De Grasse walked out to announce the foundation. They took photos. They were in awe of the star.
In a lot of ways it was their reaction that typified why De Grasse wanted to create the foundation in the first place — he's very aware of his star power and wants to use it to empower and inspire the next generation of track athletes.
"It's just a great feeling to be able to do this and excite people and put a smile on their face," he said.
"It's an awesome feeling for me. These kids are great and talented and put in the hard work. I just want to give them that step to be able to be like me or better than me."
The foundation aims to assist young athletes through sport and education with the ultimate goal of creating a healthier and more productive community. There's also an Andre De Grasse Future Champions Fund that's been created to provide resources and financial assistance for young athletes.
"I started thinking about this when I first turned professional but I knew it wasn't going to be an overnight thing," De Grasse said. "A lot of people needed to be involved. It took a couple years but I'm glad we finally made it here."
De Grasse's mother, Beverley, stood beside her son as he talked passionately about the details of the foundation to the hundreds of athletes gathered around.
"I'm feeling so proud of all that he has accomplished. He's reaching so many young people. I never expected this in my wildest dreams," Beverley said.
She recalled showing up to the York University track for the first time when her son competed in track meets in elementary school.
"I was sitting in those stands right over there. I came here every year for those track meets from Grade 4 to Grade 8," she said.
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Beverley considers Andre an "old soul" and remembers him wanting to help kids even while he was growing up. She used to work at a daycare and would bring Andre with her sometimes.
"I would take him and he was always so good with the little kids. He's always had that in him," Beverley said.
She knows how important it's been to have so many people helping Andre throughout his journey. She says she couldn't afford to pay for Andre to compete at the 2013 Pan American junior championships. A family stepped in to help, and he went on to win silver in the 100 metres and bronze in the 200 in Colombia.
"I've never forgotten that and he certainly hasn't either," she said. "He's kind, humble and I'm so proud of the man he's become."
It hasn't been an ideal start to this year's track season for De Grasse. In the three outdoor events he's competed in, he has two disappointing eighth-place finishes on the Diamond League circuit to go with a fourth-place finish at the Drake Relays in Iowa at the end of April.
This all comes after a hamstring injury last summer that forced him out of the world championships and then caused him to miss the indoor season and the recent Commonwealth Games.
But De Grasse isn't too concerned about those performances right now.
"Things will always come around and get better. I'm not panicking at all," he said.
"There are always going to be ups and downs and that's what sports are about. So this is a great example of having that belief in yourself and having others believe in you."