Usain Bolt is leading the second 200m semi-final at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. With 50 metres to go and a spot in the finale within his grasp, the world’s fastest runner slows it down, anticipating yet another easy victory. Andre De Grasse, 21 years old, appears beside him. Bolt is caught, stared down, and dipped for the finish line by the Canadian, who is competing in the Games for the first time, compelling the Jamaican to give a strong effort for first place. As they cross the finish line neck-and-neck, the two exchange a sly grin, knowing they’ll face off in the final the next day.
“It’s like we’re just trying to have fun,” De Grasse adds. When interviewed by Betway Insider.
“We weren’t expecting Usain in the semi-finals. ‘You’re going to try and make him run,’ my coach said. We simply cannot make things too easy for this guy; we have to make him work.’ I ran a nice, fast 150m, glanced to my left, and thought to myself, ‘OK, he’s slowing down, and I’m close to him.’
“It was simply me getting out and enjoying each other’s company and doing the best.”
Now it’s 2021, and De Grasse is 26 years old and preparing for his second Olympic Games in Tokyo.
He has been among the sports betting favourites to win medals in both single events at this year’s Games after winning silver in the 200m and bronze in the 100m in Rio, as well as a bronze in the 4x100m relay.
Expectations are naturally higher for the three-time medallist this time around, given his spectacular performance in Rio and the subsequent comparisons to Bolt that ensued.
De Grasse enters Tokyo as the icon of Canadian sports, and he is eager to carry his country’s ambitions.
He presently resides in the United States with his American hurdler partner Nia Ali, who won gold in the 100m hurdles at the 2019 World Championships, and his three-year-old daughter, but adds that every journey north of the border encourages him on the track.
“People ask, ‘How does it feel to bear the weight of the nation on your shoulders?’” he explains. “ When people think that, it makes me quite happy, especially since, I don’t have the idea of how many youngsters I was able to inspire back at home.”
With three golds, De Grasse has already established himself as one of Canada’s greatest accomplished elite athletes after just one Olympic participation.
If he wins in Tokyo, he will become only the second Canadian to win a single sprint competition at the Olympic games, following Donovan Bailey’s victory in the 100m at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
De Grasse keeps in touch with the former Olympic champion regularly and believes the encouragement he’s received from Bailey and fellow 4x100m relay gold medallist Bruny Surin has helped him.
Whatever happens in Tokyo, De Grasse will go down in Canadian sports history, and his struggle with Bolt in 2016 will be remembered as one of the most memorable moments of the Olympic Games.
Despite his satisfaction with his accomplishments, he is optimistic in his capacity to go even further this summer.