Track and Field·Preview

De Grasse aims to lower 200m time in Paris following 1st Diamond League win of season

Andre De Grasse of Markham, Ont., will try to build on the momentum of Thursday's first Diamond League victory of the season in the 100 metres when the reigning Olympic 200 champion makes his debut in the distance at the Meeting de Paris on Saturday (CBCSports.ca, 3 p.m. ET).

Reigning Olympic champion has season best of 20.67 seconds in legal wind

Canada's Andre De Grasse, seen at the Bislett Games, finished fourth in the men's 200-metre event in Diamond League competition on Saturday in Paris, France. (Stian Lysberg Solum/NTB/AFP via Getty Images)

Reigning Olympic champion Andre De Grasse would probably say he has work to accomplish over 200 metres after earning his first victory of the season in the 100 on Thursday.

The sprinter won the first Olympic gold medal of his career and first by a Canadian in the 200 since 1928 last summer, setting a national record time of 19.62 in Tokyo. De Grasse has run the distance twice this year, with a best of 20.67 in legal wind on April 29 near his home in Jacksonville, Fla.

Two weeks later, he was fourth in a wind-assisted 20.15 at the Diamond League season opener in Doha, Qatar.

"The conditions there were dreadful — windy, strong headwind in the first 50, 60 metres," Diamond League commentator/analyst Chris Dennis said this week. "It was the same for everyone but [De Grasse] didn't feel as though he got into the race and said by the time he got in the home straight with the wind behind him, the race had already been decided.

"[Besides Thursday's win in Oslo, Norway] I'm surprised at where he has finished in all his races this season. The times aren't terrible and Doha we can put to the side because of the wind."

On Saturday, Dennis is working the Meeting de Paris competition in Paris, where De Grasse makes his event debut in the 200 at 3:15 p.m. ET. The competition will be live streamed at 3 p.m. ET from Charléty Stadium on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.

De Grasse, 27, continues to make progress in the 100, inching closer to the 10-second barrier with Thursday's 10.05 in the rain over Reece Prescod (10.06) of Great Britain at the Bislett Games. It was De Grasse's fifth straight race over 10 seconds and fourth of 2022 after he clocked a personal-best 9.89 in last year's Olympic final.

WATCH | De Grasse posts season-best time to win 100 metres in Oslo:

Andre De Grasse wins 100m with season-best performance at Diamond League in Norway

11 days ago
Duration 3:32
Andre De Grasse wins the 100 metres event at the Diamond League meet at Bislett Stadium in Oslo with a season-best time of 10.05 seconds.

"The heights of Tokyo haven't been maintained, so far," Dennis told CBC Sports. "He's gotta start putting in a sub-10 performance, and maybe start getting in the top two of these races.

"Otherwise, it feels he's leaving it late to run himself into some sort of form at world championships [next month in Eugene, Ore.] where you know the field is going to be stacked."

The Markham, Ont., athlete opened his season in the 100 on April 30 with a wind-assisted 10.07 performance in Jacksonville. His Diamond League season debut followed three weeks later in Birmingham, England, where he placed fourth in 10.24, one week before De Grasse's last-place finish in 10.21 as part of a loaded nine-man field at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene.

Dennis noted there weren't any technical issues with the runner's effort at the Müller Birmingham competition "and I couldn't even say he looked particularly lethargic. Like a lot of people, I was surprised with the result but after the race he said he felt fine."

Eyebrows raised at Prefontaine Classic

Dennis agreed De Grasse placing ninth at Pre Classic would raise eyebrows "but if he comes fourth in that loaded field, I would have thought it was a decent performance."

Trayvon Bromell, who struggled in the Olympic heats and missed the final, won in 9.93 on the Hayward Field track in Oregon ahead of American teammate Fred Kerley (9.98). Even teenagers Letsile Tebogo (10.12) and Erriyon Knighton (10.14) finished ahead of De Grasse.

WATCH | Bromell tops Pre Classic field, De Grasse last:

Trayvon Bromell finishes 1st, Andre De Grasse comes last in men's 100m

1 month ago
Duration 1:57
The Markham, Ont. native ended with a time of 10.21 at the World Athletics Diamond League competition in Eugene, Ore.

Christian Coleman was third in 10.04 as he continues working his way back following an 18-month suspension for breaching anti-doping whereabouts rules. On Sunday, the reigning world champion from the United States clocked 9.92 at the New York Grand Prix after his first three outdoor races were above 10 seconds.

De Grasse's slow start, on the other hand, mirrors 2021 when he was gearing up for his second Olympic appearance and didn't run under 10 seconds in legal wind from April 30 to July 13. He then stepped it up in Tokyo in the heats (9.91), and semifinals (9.98).

Dennis wondered if the time needed to come down from the high of his Olympic achievement is among the reasons for De Grasse's 10-plus second finishing times this season. He brought home three medals for the second consecutive Olympics, including silver in the men's 100 relay.

"He's been open about taking a long, well-deserved rest after Tokyo and did some commercial and sponsor-related opportunities that came with being an Olympic champion," said Dennis of De Grasse, a parent of three kids who also manages a charitable foundation and last summer released Race With Me!, a motivational picture book he wrote for kids.

All he needs to do is run 9.9-something and [finish] top-two or three and he'll show he's moving in the right direction.— Diamond League commentator Chris Dennis on Andre De Grasse's 100-metre performance

"Having fun and relaxing has been a common theme in his interviews. It may be he just started his season slightly later than [previous years]."

De Grasse's partner, American hurdler Nia Ali, has been competing regularly this season and could be a reason he has kept his race schedule to a minimum (De Grasse had raced six times last season through mid-June).

"He seems in good shape and in a good place mentally," Dennis said. "He got rid of the label of the guy who always comes fourth or gets the silver or bronze medal. He now has [an Olympic] gold and I think psychologically that's gotta make a difference [but] people expect big things from an Olympic champion."

De Grasse will return to Canada to race the 100 and 200 against three-time defending champion Aaron Brown at the June 23-26 national championships in Langley, B.C., Athletics Canada confirmed to CBC Sports. De Grasse last won the sprint double in 2017 in Ottawa.

WATCH | 'Mental preparedness, hip speed' make De Grasse fast:

What makes Andre De Grasse so fast?

1 month ago
Duration 4:32
Athletics Canada head coach Glenroy Gilbert breaks down the physical and mental abilities that make Andre De Grasse Canada's fastest man.

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.

(CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Faceoff.com. Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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