Olympics calling, Canada's De Grasse rounding into form as he seeks to defend 200-meter title

He's the guy who messed with Usain Bolt.

He's the guy who was crying behind the tinted sunglasses at the last Olympics when he won the gold medal.

Andre De Grasse manages to stay under the radar most of the time, but has a knack for turning up big when the Olympics roll around.

If someone, anyone, is going to put a stop to Noah Lyles and what, at times, feels like the American's singlehanded quest to make athletics great again, it could very well be this 29-year-old Canadian. He is the defending champion at 200 meters and considers himself still very much a factor in the 100 and 200, both of which Lyles came into the summer as the favorite.

“I feel like I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder, even when I got into the sport,” said De Grasse, who is competing at Canada's Olympic trials starting Friday. “My first Olympics, no one really thought that I could really do anything because we had Usain Bolt around.”

De Grasse didn't beat Bolt at the Rio Games in 2016. But he made a name for himself when he had the audacity to push the Jamaican to the line in the 200-meter semifinal. The move forced Bolt to crank back up after he'd started slowing down, then left the Jamaican great wagging his finger at De Grasse when they crossed.

Bolt saw it as a sign of disrespect. De Grasse conceded it was strategy — trying to wear out the GOAT in hopes of beating him the next night. It didn't work. De Grasse finished a distant second. And even though injuries took De Grasse off the radar for a while, he was back five years later in Tokyo and became an Olympic champion.

“Definitely worth the wait,” he said that night, conceding he didn't think he'd get so caught up in the emotion of the moment.

Since then, a toe injury and the breakup, then reunion with, his coach Rana Reider took De Grasse well out of the sprint conversation again. Only over the past few months has he been starting to feel like his old self again.

His 2024 times are not flashy. His season bests are 10-flat in the 100 and 20.09 in the 200, both in the past month. He is taking a gamble at trials this week, signed up for the 100 to work on his starts with the thought that good early speed will translate to the 200, as well.

But he is not signed up for the 200, leaving it up to team officials to place him on the roster. Unlike the United States, Canada does not have a strict rule stating that the top three finishers in every event qualify for the Olympics.

Speaking with The Associated Press earlier this week, De Grasse sounded confident he will be appearing in both sprints, along with the 4x100 relay, where the Canadians took the silver medal in Tokyo.

“I've got my confidence, my smile, my swagger,” De Grasse said, deftly weaving in a plug for his sponsor Ivisalign, which arranged this interview. “It's kind of good to be back at the top now, feeling pretty good. And now I just really want to defend my title.”


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