Parenthood gives elite sprinters De Grasse, Fraser-Pryce a new outlook
Track stars finding balance between children and Olympic sport
TORONTO — On the track, Canadian sprint star Andre De Grasse hasn't had much to smile about lately.
At last year's IAAF track and field world championships, he missed his last shot to topple the legendary Usain Bolt due to a hamstring injury. And at last month's Canadian championships, it was almost déjà vu as De Grasse pulled up — bothered by the same right hamstring — in the closing stages of the men's 200-metre semifinal.
But ask him about his one-month-old daughter, Yuri, and De Grasse can't stop beaming.
"She's the best thing that's came into my world so I'm just happy. I'm enjoying parenthood and looking forward to seeing her grow," says De Grasse, who was at a press conference on Thursday with some of the athletes competing at this weekend's NACAC (North America, Central America and the Caribbean) track and field championships at Toronto's Varsity Stadium.
The event will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca and the CBCSports app beginning Friday at 10:05 a.m. ET.
While De Grasse admits he hasn't been getting much sleep lately, the 23-year-old is enjoying the process that comes with being a new dad.
Click on the video player below to see De Grasse discuss fatherhood:
The Markham, Ont., native laughs as he talks about his diaper-changing duties and the completely different lifestyle off the track.
Her presence has helped De Grasse during one of the most difficult points of his young career.
"It makes me take my mind off the injury. It makes me think about life in a different perspective … just to have your family around to encourage you," De Grasse says. "For her, she's not thinking about that stuff. All she wants to do is cry and be held. It's a fun time for me."
Fraser-Pryce in similar situation
If there's anyone who understands what De Grasse is going through, it's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
The Jamaican star gave birth to her first child just over a year ago and this is the first time that her son, Zyon, hasn't joined her at a meet.
Before departing for Toronto, Fraser-Pryce was already crying at the airport knowing how much she'll miss him and knows that as a parent, it's only natural to feel that way.
"Being a mother is hard work and being an athlete is equally hard. But for me, it's about managing my time and realizing at the end of the day what's important to me. My son is important, my family is important but also being able to defy the odds," Fraser-Pryce says.
A three-time Olympic medallist in Rio, De Grasse plans to get back on the track in a couple of weeks to begin his one to two month rehab process.
Like De Grasse, the seven-time world championship gold medallist is on a mission of her own to return to the sport's elite.
Fraser-Pryce didn't have a natural birth as she underwent a C-section. The procedure has limited the 31-year-old from doing much lifting or core work, thus affecting her explosive strength at the start of races.
Motivated for comeback
But despite the lack of time in the gym, Fraser-Pryce still managed to win the women's 100 at last month's Diamond League event in London with a time of 10.98 seconds, just 0.28 off her national record and the fourth-fastest time in history.
"There are a lot of things in life that are very hard, where you just have to find the will power and strength to overcome that," Fraser-Pryce says. "So far, it has been challenging and very rewarding because, as an athlete, you sometimes don't know the strength that you possess until it's time to let the lion roar."
There's been no shortage of motivation for Fraser-Pryce in her comeback.
The two-time Olympic champion applauds both Serena Williams and heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill for all they've accomplished in their respective returns from maternity leave.
Missing last year's worlds was also difficult for her in the sense that she wasn't able to build on her performance in Rio.
It's undoubtedly one of the many reasons Fraser-Pryce continues to compete.
"I just felt like there was so much more I had and wanted to give. I'm so passionate, hungry, and determined. I want it to be an absolutely amazing comeback and I'm so caught up in it — it goes in my head over and over [again]," Fraser-Pryce says.
"[But] I'm being smart and strategic in my buildup. Being an athlete and doing well is one thing. But being an athlete and coming back from setbacks is another. It tests your inner strength, perseverance, and [it's] a different kind of expectation for you as an athlete."