With renewed focus on health, De Grasse sees track worlds as chance to rejoin elite
'I take a lot more things seriously now,' says Canadian Olympic sprinter
Andre De Grasse became a household name in 2016, sprinting his way to three medals at the Rio Olympics.
He was suddenly famous, and with a $11.25-million US sponsorship deal with Puma in his pocket, he was rich.
He was also young, just 21 when he arrived home from Brazil with one silver and two bronze. He admits now, in the wake of that success, he wasn't always diligent when it came to health and nutrition.
De Grasse strained his right hamstring during a training run just days before the start of the 2017 track and field world championships in London. And his 2018 season ended in July when he re-injured the hamstring at the Canadian championships.
WATCH | De Grasse's comeback from hamstring injuries:
The injuries played a part in splitting from Canadian coach Stu McMillan of the Phoenix-based ALTIS training group last fall and moving to Jacksonville, Fla., to work with American sprint guru Rana Reider, who has helped De Grasse regain confidence and lower his times to near-personal-best levels.
Nowadays, De Grasse either prepares his own meals or his girlfriend Nia Ali and his mother, when she pays a visit, will cook for him.
11 individual podium finishes in 2019
"I take a lot more things seriously now," he says, citing his improved sleep habits, nutrition, recovery from races, staying hydrated and regular physiotherapy treatments. "I was young [but] I'm not eating out as much [now] or snacking on junk food.
De Grasse returned to the track for his first 100 race of 2019 on May 21 and ran 10.09 seconds to finish second at the Nanjing World Challenge in China. He has remained healthy and reached the podium in five of his seven races in the 100 and all six times running the 200, with his season bests of 9.97 and 19.87, respectively, close to his personal bests (9.91/19.80) accomplished at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
WATCH | De Grasse sets 9.97-second season-best:
De Grasse believes he can establish new personal bests in Doha, where he will try to carry the momentum from a "consistent" 9.97 performance on Sept. 1 at the Berlin World Challenge.
"All my starts this season have been shaky and I haven't been able to get out with the field," De Grasse says, "but I was able to get out of the [starting] blocks well and maintain my speed.
He has been quite consistent lately coming out of the blocks. ... I like his confidence and where he's at.— CBC Sports track analyst Donovan Bailey on sprinter Andre De Grasse
"I just have to stay patient and when I hear the [starter's] gun just react and push. If I do that, I'll be in the mix [for a medal]."
WATCH | Andre De Grasse: 'This is the time I gotta be consistent'
Donovan Bailey, who won the men's 100 final at the 1996 Olympics in world-record time, believes De Grasse has the potential to reach the podium "and even win" in Doha.
American Christian Coleman, having posted a 9.81 world-leading time this season on June 30 at the Prefontaine Classic, is the favourite in Doha. But he hasn't run the 100 since his victory at the U.S. championships on July 26 and recently faced a possible sanction for three "whereabouts failures" over a 12-month period before the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency dropped his case for missed doping tests on a technicality.
WATCH | Canadian moments from past track & field worlds:
Reigning world champion and fellow American Justin Gatlin has the fourth fastest time this year at 9.87 but he pulled up with a suspected left hamstring or thigh injury on Sept. 3 at the Zagreb World Challenge in Croatia and might not be at full health in Qatar.
Two-time reigning Canadian champion Aaron Brown, who clocked 9.96 in the semifinals at the national championships in July, is also in the field that features 2011 world champion Yohan Blake, Akani Simbine, Zharnel Hughes, Adam Gemili and 2019 NCAA gold medallist Divine Oduduru as medal contenders.
WATCH | Aaron Brown defends Canadian 100m title, beating De Grasse:
"I think Aaron needs to run as relaxed as he did in the semifinals at nationals," says Bailey. "I find sometimes in the Diamond League he's quite stiff and just needs to get out of the blocks and run the track like he owns it.
"He probably could have run 9.90 or faster at Canadian championships, but I don't want him putting too much pressure on himself or getting too nervous that he can't achieve that."
WATCH | Brown: 'Winning a Canadian championship gives me confidence on world stage'
De Grasse, who clocked 19.87 in his most recent 200 to place third at the Diamond League Final in Brussels, spent much of his training working on his start.
"My speed is there so I have to make sure I'm holding my form and accelerating properly," he says. "I think I relaxed too much on the bend [in Brussels] and let [Noah] Lyles and [Ramil] Guliyev get away from me and I had to come back at the end.
"I have to try not to fall asleep at that point in the race, hit the gas and hold my form coming into the straightaway."
WATCH | The story of De Grasse and Coleman:
CBC Sports has exclusive live coverage of the 2019 World Track & Field Championships from Sept. 27-Oct. 6. View the stream and broadcast schedule here. To add the complete event schedule to your calendar, click here.