Donovan Bailey: Andre De Grasse is still the next great sprinter
Canadian track legend not fazed by youngster's slow start to season
Everyone's entitled to their opinion.
I watched the replay of the top finishers crossing the finish line in the men's 200-metre race at the Diamond League Doha meet last Friday and heard the analysis of former 1,500-metre world-record holder Steve Cram, who now works for the BBC.
"[Andre] De Grasse, nowhere. I'm not sure he's the future of this [event]."
- De Grasse not ready to dominate Diamond League: Cram
- De Grasse sheds more rust, places 6th in 200m season debut
- De Grasse 4th in 100m in track return at Drake Relays
Noah Lyles won in Qatar in a meet record and personal-best time of 19.83 seconds. Andre was sixth in 20.46.
There are many commentators who have said the wrong thing before. That's part of the business.
I know Steve. I'm friends with him and he's a good guy. But it's sport. There is criticism along the way. If you're open for praise, you have to be open to criticism.
I know Andre is a huge talent. I think he's the next great sprinter. I really do. But sometimes as an audience, no one knows of an athlete's goal. Maybe Andre and his coach, Stu McMillan, talked about getting out of the race in Doha injury free as the main goal and they're happy with that.
Andre also got beat in his season debut in the 100 metres on April 28 at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, where he ran 10.15 seconds.
When an athlete is coming off an injury like Andre, who strained his right hamstring last August that forced him to withdraw from the world track and field championships, one of the things you always do is run in a low-key competition or relay, so you're not alone or exposed on the track.
If I were him, I would have gone to the Commonwealth Games in April to run the 4x100 relay only, or just run a couple of relays, maybe the Mt. SAC in April in Walnut, Calif., or the Texas Relays in late March.
A strained hamstring is a muscle tear and very easy to take care of with proper therapy. The greatest problem for a sprinter coming back from a hamstring injury is getting yourself to a point where you are confident mentally that all the muscles are going to be firing.
Physiotherapy is very important, so in time you can push off the block and not think about injury or pain. Practice reassures you of this and competition enhances that feeling.
Ultimately, Andre has put himself in a position. Justin Gatlin is a 100-metre world champion outdoors. Christian Coleman is a 60-metre champion indoors. This should be an incentive for Andre, and it would be for me, to go out and destroy them on the track one at a time. You have to beat the king to be the king. No one is going to hand you a gold medal.
I want Andre to break world records and be a world and Olympic champion. I think what he's dealing with now is race rust from a long layoff. You can see it.
When Andre came out of the starting blocks in Doha, his drive phase and rhythm wasn't there because he hasn't been in competition mode. Training and racing are two different things. Obviously, Andre is in shape because he's been training on the track since November.
He didn't run indoors over the winter and that was a surprise to me. But Andre has always started the outdoor season slow and not surprised people.
Andre is 23 years old and in a position now with five men around his age also vying for the top spot: Lyles (20), Coleman (22) Jereem Richards (24), C.J. Ujah (24) and Ramil Guliyev (27).
Lyles is one of the new studs. He's a huge talent and Coleman, who's also American, wants to be the next thing, while Gatlin is 36 but a world champion. If Andre wants to establish himself as one of the guys, he has to systematically take these guys down psychologically and physically on the track.
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:
- 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)