One of the Greater Toronto Area’s top gold medal hopes is ramping up the training with his eyes on the podium at the Summer Olympics. Post City touched base with the sprinter to talk training and his new charitable initiative Race With Me!
Congrats on the recent podium finish. How does it feel to get back out there and compete?
Thank you. It feels great to be back overseas competing again. I haven’t travelled since the fall of 2019, so it’s a great feeling. Just adapt- ing to jet lag again and not being able to leave my hotel room except to go to the track be- cause of COVID restrictions. I look forward to making Canada proud this summer.
How hard has it been on you not having that top competition leading up to an Olympic Games?
Because I live down in Florida where a lot of the world’s best sprinters train, I’ve had the opportunity to compete in some local meets where the competition is still very strong.
How are you feeling about the Tokyo Olympics? There are still calls for its cancellation. It’s an awkward situation.
I’m focusing on the one thing I can control, which is my preparation for Tokyo. I feel like, with the Games being so close now, it’s prob- ably really hard to cancel them. Fingers crossed.
How have you kept busy over the past year or so of the pandemic?
I’ve spent a lot of time with my family. I also wrote a book called Race With Me!, which was a really fun experience. It’s a celebration of sport but, more importantly, carries a message about the power of positivity and keeping a winning attitude, no matter what. And to love what you do! [Race With Me will be available in French and English at stores across Canada July 6.]
Tell me about your new charity initiative.
COVID-19 has been really tough on every- one but especially kids who haven’t been able to participate in organized sport. The idea with the Race With Me Canada Virtual Challenge is to help kids get back on track and to return to sport and competition in a safe way. It’s really simple. You register for free at www.racewithme.ca. You then go to your local 400-metre track and have your sibling or parents time you over one lap. Then you go back at least once a week to see how much you can improve. There are weekly prizes, and the challenge goes until June 25. It’s free to enter, but we are accepting donations. We’ve already raised more than $16,000 for Kids Help Phone.
You’re teaming up with a 14-year-old Jesse Briscoe. How did that partnership occur?
Jesse was feeling pretty bummed out about missing organized sport and was spending all of his spare time playing video games. He’s a fan of mine, and he and his dad reached out to see if we could work together to help kids improve their physical and mental health. Back in 2018, I started the Andre De Grasse Family Foundation, which is dedicated to in- spiring and empowering youth through ac- cess to sport, education and health care. So this opportunity was a perfect fit.
What are you hoping people take from Race With Me?
I want to see Canadian kids smiling again and back outside in the fresh air … to be re- minded that it’s all about putting one foot in front of the other. It’s been a tough 18 months, but things are brightening up.
How did athletics/track help you when you were younger?
My mom likes to tell people it helped me burn off energy, which I can relate to as a parent myself now. I think basketball was really good at teaching me about teamwork, and it was a great social activity for me as well.
The 100-metre sprint is said to be wide open at the Olympics in Tokyo. What expectations are you putting on yourself?
I’m always looking to put myself in a position to win. I got off to a good start running 9.99 [seconds] in my [informal] rest meet. I got another big block training back in Florida coming up. So the plan is to have put in the necessary work ahead of Tokyo so that, when I get there, I’m ready to get back onto that podium!
Who makes you excited for the future of Canadian track?
The depth of talent across so many events is really exciting. I believe we will have a good showing at the Olympics for Canada. A lot of people are in that top eight range and have a great shot at getting on the podium.