Sports·The Buzzer

Andre De Grasse's Olympic chances just got a little better

CBC Sports' daily newsletter reassesses the Olympic men's 100-metre field in the wake of favourite Christian Coleman's suspension being upheld.

100m favourite Christian Coleman officially ruled out for Tokyo

Canadian Andre De Grasse's 100m hopes look brighter with Christian Coleman ruled out. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports' daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what's happening in sports by subscribing here.

The title of world's fastest man is officially up for grabs

The Olympics' most popular event got a bit more interesting today when men's 100-metre favourite Christian Coleman was definitively ruled out for the Tokyo Games this summer. Back in the fall, the 25-year-old reigning world champion was banned from track and field for two years for missing three doping tests in a 12-month period. Today, his appeal was settled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which cut Coleman's retroactive suspension to 18 months. It'll keep him out of competition until November.

Had he stayed healthy and out of trouble, Coleman would have been very tough to beat in Tokyo. In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic put the kibosh on major track meets, he ran the three best 100m times in the world — including a 9.76 at the world championships in Doha that made him the sixth-fastest man in history. Now that we know he's out, there's no clear Olympic favourite. Here's a look at the three most interesting contenders:

Andre De Grasse

Big Race 'Dre always seems to come through on the largest stages. Going back to 2015, when he burst onto the international track scene with a stunning bronze from the outside lane at the world championships, the Canadian has won a medal in all five individual events he's entered at the worlds or Olympics. At the 2016 Olympics, De Grasse relished going toe-to-toe with Usain Bolt and came away with a bronze in the 100 and silver in the 200. He duplicated those results at the post-Bolt 2019 worlds, showing he'd put two years of chronic hamstring issues behind him.

Since then, there have been few opportunities for anyone to compete against elite opponents. De Grasse has yet to appear in an official outdoor individual race in 2021, and he's skipping next month's World Athletics Relays in Poland (the first global track meet since the pandemic started) as he and his partner prepare for the birth of their second child. But De Grasse was one of only four men to run a sub-10-second 100 last year and, at 26, he's still in his physical prime. The knock on De Grasse is that his ceiling might not be high enough to win a 100m final at the Olympics or world championships. But with Coleman out, the bar for winning gold in Tokyo could be a bit lower.

Justin Gatlin

The most obvious next man up is always the silver medallist. Gatlin finished second to Coleman at the last world championships and second to Bolt at the last Summer Olympics. The American also won the 2017 world title (beating Bolt in his final individual race), the 2005 world title and the 2004 Olympic gold. Those last two victories came before he served a four-year doping ban. If you can get past that, Gatlin is undoubtedly one of the greatest sprinters of all time.

Gatlin turned 39 in February. He's nearly a decade older than Bolt was for his farewell performance at the 2017 worlds. And yet, he's still among the best in the world. Gatlin ran four of the world's 13 fastest 100m times in 2019 (the last normal year) and put down a sub-10.00 just last weekend at a meet in Florida. In Tokyo, he could become the oldest man ever to win an Olympic medal on the track.

Noah Lyles

His signature event is the 200, but the 23-year-old American has the talent to win the 100 too. In 2019, only Coleman ran a faster time than the 9.86 Lyles laid down at a Diamond League meet in Shanghai, where he beat Coleman in a photo finish. Lyles elected not to run the 100 at the 2019 worlds, where he beat De Grasse for gold in the 200. But he wants to try for the 100-200-4x100 triple in Tokyo.

Honourable mentions

Donovan Bailey knows a thing or two about the Olympic 100 metres. Back when Coleman's suspension was announced, he told CBC Sports' Doug Harrison that the Tokyo race had become a "toss-up" between half a dozen or so sprinters. Besides the guys we already covered, he identified South Africa's Akani Simbine (fourth place behind Coleman, Gatlin and De Grasse at the 2019 worlds), Britain's Zharnel Hughes (four sub-10-second races in 2019) and Jamaican veteran Yohan Blake (the 2011 world champ). Bailey also liked Canadian Aaron Brown's potential (he finished eighth at last year's worlds) if he improves his starts. Read more of Bailey's analysis here.

Christian Coleman would have been the clear favourite to win the 100m in Tokyo. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Quickly...

Corey Conners is near the top of the leaderboard at this week's PGA Tour event. The Canadian fired nine birdies (six on the back nine) in today's second round at the RBC Heritage to surge into the clubhouse lead at 11 under. Conners is coming off a tie for eighth place at the Masters and has also finished third and seventh at quality events within the last six weeks. Despite falling right after the Masters, the RBC Heritage attracted a fairly strong field too. See an updated leaderboard here. Canada's top LPGA Tour player, Brooke Henderson, also played a strong first two rounds at the Lotte Championship. At 8 under, she was eight shots back of the leader. See that leaderboard here.

Canada is off to a great start in its Billie Jean King Cup playoff vs. Serbia. The Canadian team is up 2-0 in the best-of-five matchup after Leylah Annie Fernandez and Rebecca Marino both won their singles matches today in Serbia. Two more singles matches are on tap tomorrow (the players switch opponents), followed by a doubles match with Sharon Fichman and Carol Zhao playing for Canada. The team is without its best doubles player (Gabriela Dabrowski) and its best singles player (Bianca Andreescu is recovering from the foot injury that knocked her out of the Miami Open final two weeks ago). The Billie Jean King Cup was formerly known as the Fed Cup. Canada failed to qualify for the 12-team Finals tournament to be held this year (postponed from 2020), but a victory over Serbia would be helpful in reaching the following one. Read more about Canada's strong start vs. Serbia here.

And finally...

Turns out, buying a full NBA basketball court from the States and getting it to Canada isn't easy. As we mentioned in a newsletter earlier this week, Canada Basketball bought the old Golden State Warriors hardwood on which the Raptors won the NBA title in 2019 so they could install it in Victoria as a good-luck charm for this summer's last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament. Not only did it cost almost $280,000 US, but the shipping process was a real pain (go figure). Read more about the very determined (and kind of crazy) guys who cooked up the idea and why they think it's worth it in this story by CBC Sports' Myles Dichter.

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