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Track and Field

Andre De Grasse given Athletics Canada's highest honour to cap comeback season

Sprinter Andre De Grasse was the recipient of two Athletics Canada awards Saturday, including the Jack W. Davies Trophy as 2019 athlete of the year. He was also named top track athlete while pole vaulter and Canadian-record holder Alysha Newman is field athlete of the year.

Named athlete of year, tops on track; pole vaulter Alysha Newman wins field award

Athletics Canada recognized sprinter Andre De Grasse for his outstanding 2019 season on Saturday, announcing the 25-year-old as its athlete of the year and top track athlete. His campaign was highlighted by silver- and bronze-medal performances at the track and field world championships. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images/File)

He didn't need to say anything. The wide smile told everyone how happy, comfortable and confident he was. The clock displayed a time of 9.90 seconds, a personal-best in the 100 metres.

Andre De Grasse was officially back as a force on the world stage, as many of his efforts during the 2019 season had indicated.

"One of the things Andre showed is he's getting all of his confidence back," 1996 Olympic 100 champion Donovan Bailey said after De Grasse claimed a bronze medal in the event last Sept. 28 at the track and field world championships. "He's got a little swagger and he's certainly not afraid of anyone."

Three days later, the Markham, Ont., sprinter's time was 15-100ths of a second shy of his 19.80 PB in the 200 as he grabbed silver behind world No. 1 Noah Lyles of the United States.

On Saturday, Athletics Canada first awarded the 25-year-old the Phil A. Edwards Memorial Trophy as track athlete of the year for 2019. De Grasse was later given the highest honour, the Jack W. Davies Trophy, as athlete of the year.

WATCH | Andre De Grasse blazes down straightaway to win silver:

Canada's Andre De Grasse finishes 2nd in 200 metres, American Noah Lyle wins gold while Canadian Aaron Brown places 6th. 4:54

De Grasse has now raced a combined seven times across the 100 and 200 in a world championship or Olympic final and won seven medals.

His 200 performance at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, capped a stellar comeback season for the 2016 Olympic triple medallist who spent much of the 2017 and 2018 seasons recovering from right hamstring injuries.

"Next year is going to be an incredible year for me, I believe," he told Scott Russell of CBC Sports at worlds.

Split from coach

De Grasse, who ranks sixth in the world in the 100 and third in the 200, didn't compete indoors earlier this year and, like athletes across the world, has had his outdoor season put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic.

After recovering from his second hamstring ailment that cut short his 2018 campaign, he split from Canadian coach Stu McMillan of the Phoenix-based ALTIS training group. De Grasse later moved to Jacksonville, Fla., to work with American sprint guru Rana Reider, who helped him regain confidence and lower his times to near-PB levels.

WATCH | De Grasse sets personal-best en route to world 100m bronze:

Christian Coleman of the United States wins 100m with personal best 9.76 seconds, Andre De Grasse finishes 3rd while fellow Canadian Aaron Brown places 8th. 8:37

De Grasse returned to the track for his first 100 race of 2019 on May 21 and ran 10.09 to finish second at the Nanjing World Challenge in China. His first 200 race was less than a month later on April 13 at the Grenada Invitational in St. George's, where he ran 20.20 to finish second.

De Grasse remained healthy and reached the podium in five of his seven races in the 100 and all six times running the 200, including a bronze at the Diamond League Final in 19.87.

"I take a lot more things seriously now [compared to after the 2016 Olympics]," he said ahead of the world championships, citing his improved sleep habits, nutrition, recovery from races, staying hydrated and regular physiotherapy treatments. 

"I probably took a lot for granted [after my Olympic success]. I was young [but] had to mature, this was my job now. I couldn't be slacking and I definitely didn't want to keep getting injured. I had to play a better role [in my health].

"I'm just happy, I'm blessed to get back where I was [pre-injury]," added De Grasse. "If it wasn't for family I don't know where I'd be. They kept me positive and said to keep that dedication and commitment and [I would] turn things around."

Alysha Newman gets nod as field athlete of year

Pole vaulter Alysha Newman was named field athlete of the year and F.N.A. Rowell Trophy recipient for a 2019 season that included her first-ever Diamond League win.

On a warm Aug. 24 evening, the London, Ont., native broke her Canadian record for a third time in 2019 with a personal-best jump of 4.82 metres on her third and final attempt at the Meeting de Paris to defeat Olympic and world champion Katerina Stefanidi of Greece.

"I'm so excited," a beaming Newman said after the event, her first victory over Stefanidi in five attempts in 2019. "I've been trying to jump this high for about three years."

WATCH | Alysha Newman sets 4.82m PB in Paris:

Alysha Newman wins pole vault in Paris by clearing 4.82m, sets new Canadian record. 0:52

Newman, 25, cleared 4.77 on July 17 in Germany before finishing the month with her third Canadian title in the past four years. On June 7, she jumped 4.76 at the Speed River Inferno track and field meet in Guelph, Ont., topping her Canadian mark of 4.75 achieved during her 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal performance.

Newman's campaign ended on Sept. 29 with a fifth-place finish in Doha, Qatar, the second time in as many trips to the world championships she finished off the podium.

The world's No. 4-ranked women's pole vaulter cleared 4.80 at Khalifa International Stadium before missing all three attempts at 4.85.

WATCH | Newman clears 4.80 to place 5th at worlds:

Canadian-record holder Alysha Newman cleared 4.80 metres for a 5th place result in pole vault final. 0:43

In an interview with CBC Sports' Scott Russell, Newman said she wasn't mad, stating she was proud having jumped the second highest in her 10-year career.

"I just expected a lot more from myself today," added Newman who was third at the Diamond League Final in Brussels on Sept. 6.

A month before worlds, Newman set another Canadian mark in pole vault, this time indoors at the Weltklasse Zürich, where she cleared 4.82 to match her outdoor record.

The other award winners:

  • Combined events athlete of the year (Lyle Sanderson Award): Damian Warner, decathlete
  • Most outstanding performance (Cal D. Bricker Memorial Trophy): Moh Ahmed, distance running
  • U18 athlete of the Year (Myrtle Cook Trophy): Abdullahi Hassan, middle-distance running
  • U 20 athlete of the Year (Eric E. Coy Trophy): Trinity Tutti, discus/shot put
  • Development coach of the year (Jane and Gerry Swan Awards): Besnik Mece, track and field
  • Coach of the year (Dr. Doug Clement Awards): Gerry Dragomir, track and field
  • University athlete of the year (Dr. Fred Tees Memorial Trophy): Pierce LePage, decathlon
  • Off track athlete of the year (Fred Begley Memorial Trophy): Evan Dunfee, race walking
  • Para athlete of the year in wheelchair events (Chantal Petitclerc Award): Brent Lakatos
  • Para athlete of the year in ambulatory events (Arnold Boldt Award): Nathan Riech, middle-distance event

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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