Andre De Grasse looks to shake off race rust at Diamond League opener
Canadian sprinter making season debut in 200m Friday against strong field in Doha
Donovan Bailey gave a hat tip this week to Andre De Grasse's handlers for balancing the sprint star's early season workload in the 100 and 200 metres.
De Grasse will race the 200 for the first time in 2018 at 1:36 p.m. ET on Friday at the season-opening Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar. The event will be live streamed at CBCSports.ca, starting at noon.
- WATCH LIVE: Diamond League from Doha, Friday at noon ET
- Q&A: De Grasse on his return to racing, life after Usain Bolt
A week ago, De Grasse ran 10.15 seconds in the 100 at the Drake Relays in his first race since being forced to withdraw from the world track and field championships last August with a strained right hamstring.
"In the 200 metres, Andre has the innate ability to maintain his top-end speed, so I think this is a great call by his coach [Stuart McMillan] and team to put him in the 200 this early," said Bailey, the 1996 Olympic 100 champion. "Not only will this help him get rid of more race rust, it will also help him work on his acceleration into the curve, off the curve and with his acceleration [on the straightaway] which will help in the 100 later [this season]."
Bailey said race rust was evident in the first 30 metres of De Grasse's performance last week in Des Moines, Iowa, where he finished fourth behind winner Isiah Young (10.02) fellow American Mike Rodgers (10.03) and C.J. Ujah (10.13) of Great Britain.
More importantly, the 23-year-old De Grasse came out of the event healthy following the first serious injury of his track career. Bailey, who suffered a variety of injuries during his illustrious career, said the Markham, Ont., runner would now feel a sense of ease and freedom to extend and challenge himself in training.
Bailey wasn't surprised to see some technical improvements from De Grasse at the Drake Relays since he was aware of the 23-year-old's objectives during the off-season.
"I know he and [McMillan] were working on Andre's ability to get out of the [starting] blocks and transition," said Bailey. "One of the things Andre was doing [last season] was relying on his top-end speed. But because the playing field is so level [with eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt now retired] he has to take advantage of getting out of the blocks consistently."
Guliyev, Lyles lead strong field
De Grasse will face a star-studded field in Doha that is minus reigning world 100 champion Justin Gatlin, 2017 world silver medallist Christian Coleman and Ronnie Baker, who won bronze in the 60m at the world indoor championships in March.
Leading the way is reigning world 200 champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey, 2017 Diamond League champion Noah Lyles of the United States and world bronze medallist Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago, who is making his Diamond League debut after prevailing in the 200 at the Commonwealth Games last month in 20.12.
De Grasse will also go head-to-head with Canadian teammate Aaron Brown — with whom he won relay bronze in the 4x100 at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — and 2014 Commonwealth champion Rasheed Dwyer of Jamaica.
Brown sets Commonwealth mark
Lyles has won both of his Diamond League races, running a world-leading 19.90 as a 19-year-old last May in Shanghai, China, and returning from injury to capture the circuit's final event in Brussels on Sept. 10.
Brown, 25, clocked 20.34 in his season-opening 200 at the Commonwealth Games after running the fastest semifinal in Games history (20.18). The Toronto native crossed the line third but was upgraded to second and a silver medal when England's Zharnel Hughes was disqualified for clipping the arm of Richards.
.<a href="https://twitter.com/cgc_jcc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@cgc_jcc</a>'s burning up the track today! Aaron Brown turns on the jets down the stretch to take his semi-final heat in the Men's 200m in an impressive 20.18 seconds! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GC2018?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GC2018</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoldCoast2018?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoldCoast2018</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoldCoastGoldRush?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoldCoastGoldRush</a> <a href="https://t.co/7yUGzutJEj">pic.twitter.com/7yUGzutJEj</a>—@DAZN_CA
Brown ran 20.13 in the 200 final last July at the Canadian championships and finished a trying 2017 campaign with a 20.17 effort in Brussels. At worlds in August, he turned in a season-best 20.08 in his 200 heat race but was disqualified for a lane violation. A month earlier, Brown was booted from the 100 final at the Canadian championships for a false start.
"I feel in great shape and in pretty good health. In sprinting, you're rarely ever 100 per cent," said Brown, who spent the early part of last season recovering from a left quadriceps muscle strain that didn't heal until June. "I knew once I got healthy [last season] I'd be able to perform at a high level.
"This is a tremendous field [in Doha] and I want to earn respect by competing against some of the best the world has to offer. Heading towards 2020 [and the Tokyo Olympics] I want to be seen as a contender and this is a good opportunity to gain some momentum and confidence."
Added Bailey: "I sense a different Aaron this year, that he has a plan to improve. He's no longer afraid to compete and when he gets to the final [of a race] he has no fear running his own race, staying relaxed and running smoothly. I'm very happy that mentally, he's finally [arrived] and can put it together in the big race."
Newman fresh off Games record
The other Canadian competing in Doha is pole vaulter Alysha Newman, who matched her personal best of 4.75m to break the Commonwealth Games record of 4.62 that stood since 2006.
Fresh off that victory, the London, Ont., native will face the gold and silver medallists from the 2016 Olympics in champion Katerina Stefanidi of Greece (4.91 PB) and Sandi Morris of the U.S. (5.00) at 11:10 a.m. ET.
Eyes on Semenya in 1,500
Caster Semenya, the newly crowned Commonwealth champion in the 800 and 1,500, will compete in the latter event on Friday (12:13 p.m. ET) for the first time since the International Association of Athletics Federations announced the introduction of new regulations limiting the levels of natural testosterone allowed in the bodies of female athletes competing at distances from 400 to 1,500 metres.
A two-time Olympic champion and three-time world gold medallist, the 27-year-old South African has been accused by some of having an unfair advantage due to her higher levels of testosterone.
The new IAAF rules don't take effect until Nov. 1.
Diamond League on CBC Sports
CBC Sports is providing live streaming coverage of all 14 Diamond League meets this season at CBCSports.ca and via the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices. TV coverage will be featured as part of the network's Road To The Olympic Games weekend broadcasts throughout the season.
The following is a list of upcoming Diamond League meets:
- Doha (Friday, noon ET)
- Shanghai (May 12, 7 a.m. ET)
- Eugene – Prefontaine Classic (May 26, 4 p.m. ET)
- Rome (May 31, 2 p.m. ET)
- Oslo (June 7, 2 p.m. ET)
- Stockholm (June 10, 10 a.m. ET)
- Paris (June 30, 2 p.m. ET)
- Lausanne (July 5, 2 p.m. ET)
- Rabat (July 13, 1 p.m. ET)
- Monaco (July 20, 2 p.m. ET)
- London (July 21-22, 10 a.m. ET, 9 a.m.)
- Birmingham (Aug. 18, 3 p.m. ET)
- Zurich (Aug. 30, 2 p.m. ET)
- Brussels (Aug. 31, 2 p.m. ET)