Ahead of this summer’s world championships, Canada’s Andre De Grasse continues to put the sprinting world on notice.
The 22-year-old recorded a blazing — albeit wind-aided — 9.69 to win the 100-metre IAAF Diamond League race Sunday in Stockholm, Sweden.
The wind was well above the legal standard of two metres-per-second but had it not been blowing 4.8 metres, his time could have been a Canadian record and huge jump on his personal best.
De Grasse has been closing in on Donovan Bailey and Bruny Surin’s Canadian record of 9.84 seconds. Bailey hit the mark in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta to win the gold medal and Surin equalled the elusive time at the 1999 world championships in Seville, Spain.
Bailey has monitored De Grasse’s improvements since Rio 2016 and predicts a big summer.
“With this race, it places him in line with his fastest legal time this year,” Bailey told CBC Sports. “[That] simply means he’s faster and will break both his personal best[s] in the 100 and 200. It will be a great summer.”
De Grasse’s former coach Tony Sharpe also predicts an historic summer, but went one step further.
“That Canadian record, it’s gone,” Sharpe said laughing. “We know it is going to go. It’s just a matter of the right environment and conditions…Andre is better than 9.84. Everybody knows that.
“He’s probably a 9.75 guy this year in the right conditions,” the former Olympic bronze medallist in 4×100 relay told CBC Sports.
CBC Sports reporter and former Olympic sprinter Anson Henry wholeheartedly agreed.
“If [De Grasse] is healthy, the Canadian record is going to be lowered. No matter what. It’s going to happen…The Canadian record is gone this year no matter what.”
‘Difficult to compare with Bailey, Surin’
According to estimated wind-altitude adjustment calculators, De Grasse’s time would convert to a 9.88 with no wind or a 9.79 with a legal 2.0 wind.
Trent Stellingwerff, director of performance solutions at the Canadian Sport Institute, told CBC Sports that it is difficult to evaluate De Grasse’s time compared to Bailey and Surin’s mark due to a number of factors including wind tunnel – which relates directly to the size of the two sprinters.
“It’s difficult to compare them head-to-head and apples to oranges…[For example] Donovan is a bit bigger than Andre so there is a bit more surface area to potentially push him along,” he explained. “[But Andre] is in that ball park. I bet you last summer if you asked Donovan, he would have said that Andre was already in the Canadian record ball park.
Head-to-head with Usain Bolt
But De Grasse’s ambitions stretch beyond the Canadian record.
He has won his last three races and continues to perform well after winning a bronze medal in the 100 and a silver in the 200 at Rio 2016. He publicly stated that he wants to beat Jamaican Usain Bolt at the world championships that run from August 4-13 in London, England.
Bolt has a hat trick of Olympic gold medals in the 100 and has already indicated that the worlds will be his last competition.
With the way De Grasse is running, Sharpe believes the Canadian has put Bolt on notice.
“Andre is gaining confidence. It’s a huge factor. He’s schooling these world class sprinters [in the Diamond League] like kids. He dominated them [Sunday]. I never bet against Andre.”
Henry says that the upcoming world championship could be a defining moment for De Grasse.
“When your body feels 9.69, that’s part of his muscle memory now,” he said. “His body has felt it. His nervous system has adapted to it.
“Andre has made it clear that he wants to beat Bolt…He’s getting faster every race. He has made it clear that he doesn’t want the throne handed to him. He wants to take it.”