Andre De Grasse wins gold in 200m thriller
Sprint sensation breaks own Canadian record
Running blind out of Lane 8, in his sixth race in three days, and in the heat of a spotlight he'd never experienced.
Andre De Grasse has laid down one spectacular performance after another this season, but none quite matched his 200-metre gold-medal run Friday night at the Pan Am Games in Toronto.
The 20-year-old from nearby Markham, Ont., who won the 100-metre title on Wednesday, shook off the fatigue of five previous Pan Am runs to race to a blistering 19.88 seconds — shattering his own Canadian record of 20.03, and becoming the first Canadian in history to run both a sub-10 in the 100, and sub-20 in the 200.
BREAKING: Andre De Grasse wins gold in the 200m, breaks his own Canadian record with a 19.88 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CBCPanAm?src=hash">#CBCPanAm</a> <a href="http://t.co/0jRZbQqvhO">http://t.co/0jRZbQqvhO</a>—@cbcsports
WHAT A FINISH <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CBCPanAm?src=hash">#CBCPanAm</a> <a href="http://t.co/l4wlEnRO18">pic.twitter.com/l4wlEnRO18</a>—@cbcsports
"This impressed me the most, the 200," said his coach Caryl Smith Gilbert. "Because he could have easily, the way his body was feeling, and with all of the pressure and everything going on, he could easily have said 'I'll get the bronze.'
"But he's a fighter, you can't coach that. That's natural. He's a great kid."
- RESULTS: Men's 200m
- VIDEO: De Grasse finds another gear to win 200
- VIDEO: Donovan Bailey: De Grasse has arrived
In the moments immediately following Friday's victory, the young runner wrapped himself in a flag tossed down from the stands, and smiled to himself, completely void of the bluster that the world's best sprinters are known for.
"It's an unreal moment right now," De Grasse grinned. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete at home, in front of this amazing crowd, they really gave me a lot of energy today and yesterday, to just fight through it and keep competing."
Only 24 hours earlier, De Grasse looked thoroughly beat, struggling for breath after a third-place finish in his semifinal.
If anyone doubted De Grasse had yet another brilliant performance in him, Smith Gilbert didn't.
"He doesn't like to lose," said the USC Trojans coach.
"But amazing," she conceded. "The best race I've seen him run in terms of how many races he's run already, the Mondo track is very hard surface, it makes you sore. And a lot of those guys in the 200, they didn't run the 100. [Thursday] he was barely alive."
Amid a field that included three-time world medallist Wallace Spearmon and world silver medallist Alonso Edward, De Grasse got off to great start, but trailed coming down the homestretch before he dug deep for a final surge.
He dipped at the line to just outlean Jamaica's Rasheed Dwyer and Panama's Edward — silver and bronze medallists in identical times of 19.90.
De Grasse wasn't frazzled by the Lane 8 designation, the least favourable lane on the track. Smith Gilbert purposely throws distractions at the young sprinter in practice at their Los Angeles training base. False starts, bad lanes, he's seen it all.
"And then I told him 'You'll never be able to be a double Pan Am champion in Toronto again, on your clock. It won't happen. So you'd better take advantage of the time and have fun and relax and just see what happens," Smith Gilbert said.
Next month, De Grasse will step onto the world championship stage for the first time, lining up against the likes of Usain Bolt and American Justin Gatlin in Beijing.
A year out from the Rio Olympics, Smith Gilbert sees the worlds as a learning experience more than anything.
"Let's go there, learn how to run in front of a 100,000 people, where they say 'Shooooosh!' [at the start]," she said. "And Usain Bolt is standing right there."
De Grasse to join relay team for final
Despite his struggles with fatigue, De Grasse said after the 200 final that he intends to compete in the 4x100 relay final on Saturday.
The team qualified without De Grasse on Friday by finishing third in its semifinal heat. The top three in each heat automatically move on, plus two wild cards.
"I'm gonna be ready to run the second leg," De Grasse told CBC's Brenda Irving.
Canada finishes 3rd in the 4x100m relay semifinal, qualify for the finals tomorrow <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CBCPanAm?src=hash">#CBCPanAm</a> <a href="http://t.co/wzGj9hXgMM">http://t.co/wzGj9hXgMM</a>—@cbcsports
Antigua and Barbuda won Canada's heat, followed by the United States. Trinidad and Tobago won the other heat, followed by Barbados and the Dominican Republic. The wild cards went to Jamaica and Brazil.
Nettey jumps to gold
Canada's Christabel Nettey won gold in the women's long jump.
CIBC Team Next athlete <a href="https://twitter.com/queenchristabel">@queenchristabel</a> wins gold in the long jump, celebrates with her fans <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CBCPanAm?src=hash">#CBCPanAm</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PanAmazing?src=hash">#PanAmazing</a> <a href="http://t.co/yfgY3Ho2nr">http://t.co/yfgY3Ho2nr</a>—@cbcsports
Nettey's top jump of 6.90 metres blew away the competition. The Bahamas' Bianca Stuart took the silver medal with a leap of 6.69 metres, and American Sha'Keela Saunders (6.66) got the bronze.
Brianne Theisen-Eaton (6.64) finished fourth. With the world track and field championships approaching, the Canadian heptathlon star opted out of her usual event. She'll also compete in the 4x400-metre relay.
Women's relay team moves on
The Canadian women's 4x100m relay team easily advanced to its final, finishing second to Jamaica in its semifinal heat. Brazil was third.
The Unites States won the other heat, then was briefly disqualified before being reinstated.
Canada's women advanced to the 4x100m relay finals earlier today, finishing second in their heat <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CBCPanAm?src=hash">#CBCPanAm</a> <a href="http://t.co/6DXdl2wz6H">http://t.co/6DXdl2wz6H</a>—@cbcsports
The Bahamas and Cuba got the other two automatic qualifying spots in the heat, and the two wild-card berths went to Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
Canadians win 2 medals in 1,500
Right after De Grasse won gold, Nathan Brannen and Charles Philibert-Thiboutot added two more medals for Canada by taking silver and bronze, respectively, in the men's 1,500 metres.
BREAKING: Canadians Nathan Brannen and Charles Philibert-Thiboutot win silver and bronze in men's 1500m <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CBCPanAm?src=hash">#CBCPanAm</a> <a href="http://t.co/ENH3Ct7ubK">http://t.co/ENH3Ct7ubK</a>—@cbcsports
American Andrew Wheating won gold.
It was another tight finish, as only 0.38 of a second separated Wheating from Philibert-Thiboutot.
Lalonde adds bronze
Canada's Geneviève Lalonde added a bronze medal in the women's 3,000m steeplechase.
Lalonde (9:53.03) finished behind a pair of Americans — gold medallist Ashley Higginson (9:48.12) and Shalaya Kipp (9:49.96).
BREAKING: Canadian Geneviève Lalonde wins bronze in the women's 3000m steeplechase <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CBCPanAm?src=hash">#CBCPanAm</a> <a href="http://t.co/JMYaNcBGd3">http://t.co/JMYaNcBGd3</a>—@cbcsports
- An earlier version of this story state that Andre De Grasse set a new Pan Am Games record in the men's 200m final. In fact he broke only the Canadian record.Jul 24, 2015 7:28 PM ET
With files from CBCSports.ca