Track and Field

Andre De Grasse's mission: Beat Usain Bolt before he retires

Don't let the smiles and back slaps fool you. While Andre De Grasse and Olympic legend Usain Bolt struck up a friendship in front of the world at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Canadian sprinter wants desperately to topple the Jamaican before the icon calls it a career.

Title of world's fastest man ‘would mean everything to me,' says 3-time Olympic medallist

The 411 on Canada's 4-man relay team

5 years ago
Duration 1:36
Fresh off winning 4x200-metre gold at the 2017 World Relays, Andre De Grasse lets CBC Sports in on the personalities that make up the team.

For Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse, it's the 200-metre final that still really stings.

It's been more than eight months since the Olympic Games in Rio, where De Grasse burst into the world's consciousness.

His three medals — a silver and two bronze — is the most won by any Canadian sprinter at a single Olympics. 

Still, De Grasse thinks about what might have been and watches the races from Rio often.

"I think about 10 times, especially the 200-metre final. I've watched that a lot because that's the one I felt I could have won," De Grasse told CBC Sports.

"So I keep watching it to see what I did wrong, what mistakes I made so I can learn for the future."

The man who beat De Grasse in both the 100 and 200 finals was, of course, Jamaican sprinting legend Usain Bolt.

The two men captivated the world media with their "bromance" — Bolt embracing the up-and-coming De Grasse in what was one of the biggest stories of the Games.

Andre De Grasse's dream 4-man relay team

5 years ago
Duration 0:29
After Donovan Bailey named his dream 4-man relay team, Olympic bronze medallist Andre De Grasse names his own roster. Spoiler: they don't look the same.

Bolt had only kind words for the young sprinter.

"He's going to be good. He runs just like me, he's really slow out of the blocks but when he gets going, he gets going," Bolt said after beating De Grasse in the 200 final in Rio. "I think he can improve his start, make it better than mine because he is shorter so he will get better on his starts."

Bolt knows a thing or two. He has been virtually untouchable on the world stage in the last decade, winning eight gold medals (a ninth was stripped from him after relay teammate Nesta Carter was found guilty of a doping violation from the 2008 Olympics) and 11 world championships.

De Grasse has never beaten Bolt, who has announced he will retire from competitive sprinting after the world track and field championships this August in London.

"I want to beat him before he retires, so if I could do that it would mean a lot," the 22-year-old Markham, Ont., runner acknowledged.

De Grasse believes he could’ve won gold in the 200 final against Bolt in Rio. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Beating Bolt motivates Canadian

Sure, De Grasse could seamlessly replace Bolt atop the sprinting world, but actually beating the legend head-to-head is what's motivating him right now.

He knows the window to beat the best is rapidly closing.

"Usain is one hell of an athlete and in order for me to be considered one of the best I've got to beat him. So I have to continue to work hard, stay motivated, stay focused," De Grasse said. "It's his last world championships and it's going to be tough, but I have to try and spoil his parade."

Donovan Bailey said De Grasse can't become too focused on Bolt.

"I don't think people should get caught up in the Andre versus Bolt legend," said Bailey, who won the 100 gold medal in world-record time at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

"It's not boxing. I always compare track and field to golf. Andre has to stay in his lane, he is the one writing his own journey now. I don't see it as an Andre versus Usain thing. You can't really have a rivalry if you haven't beaten someone."

Bailey said De Grasse has too many good things ahead and shouldn't define his success based on whether he can beat one of the greatest ever.

"Andre can't hide right now, he's not going to surprise anyone. I am looking forward to a great year from Andre," Bailey said. "He's going to continue to establish himself as one of the best in the world. And Usain will do what he always does. He wants to leave a great impression when he walks off the stage in London.

Title is tantalizing

Still, for De Grasse, the title of World's Fastest Man is tantalizing. He knows it belongs to Bolt until he can take it away.

"It would mean everything to me. I have been working so hard for it," De Grasse said. "For me to be able to call myself the fastest man in the world, it would be a blessing. I don't even know how I would be able to handle it if it did happen. But I am definitely looking forward to that day."

And although Bolt and De Grasse haven`t met on the track since Rio, both are sponsored by Puma, and are in touch periodically.

"I spoke to him a couple of months ago," De Grasse said. "We were in Germany shooting something together for Puma. He just said congratulations to me again. Congratulations on the Olympics, all of my new successes. He was just basically telling me to stay focused and told me that a lot of things are going to change in my life."

De Grasse, however, said Bolt offered no advice on how to beat him.


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