De Grasse surrounded by fans at 2016 Harry Jerome Track Classic. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

© Copyright – 2017 – Athletics Illustrated

Scarborough, Ontario’s Andre De Grasse will open his 2017 outdoor track season on March 30th at the Pepsi Florida Relays at the University of Florida. He will return to the track two weeks later for the Mount Sac Relays in Torrance, California.

The Florida Relays event will act as selection trials for the IAAF World Relays competition, April 22 and 23rd.

The three-time medallist from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games will also be competing in the Harry Jerome Track Classic that will be taking place in Greater Vancouver at the Perry Percy Stadium in Coquitlam on June 28th.

“I just don’t get to compete often in Canada. I am looking forward to running in front of my fans in Vancouver, one of my favourite cities,” shared De Grasse.

De Grasse’s sudden fame came as a surprise. During the 2016 season, he was overwhelmed by the attention he was receiving, especially at home. At the Harry Jerome Track Classic, he was surrounded by kids directly after his race and it took him 15 minutes to walk to the media tent. The tent was a mere 25 metres from the finish line, a distance he could cover in 2.48 seconds.

Asked if he has settled into his role as Usain Bolt’s heir, he said, “For sure I have adjusted. I just got back from Toronto and had fun there working with Puma and Usain. I am getting used to it now.”

De Grasse does appreciate his stature. When asked about being honoured with the likes of NHL player Sidney Crosby he replied, “I do have to pinch myself. Crosby is an incredible athlete and to be mentioned alongside him for Canadian Athlete of the Year is an honour, for sure.”

For 2016, he was not only launched into fame with a multi-million dollar contract with shoe and apparel company Puma – the primary sponsor of Bolt’s – he became the fastest Canadian (9.92) since the days of Donavan Bailey and Bruny Surin when they dominated the sprint world during the 1990s.

“The load is off now. There is not as much pressure since the Olympics Games have finished, so I am enjoying myself more.”

Asked of the so-called bromance that was on display during the Olympics between himself and Usain Bolt, De Grasse said chuckling, “there isn’t really a bromance, so much as Usain being as good as he is, was impressed when I took him on. He liked that. No one has ever challenged him. Justin Gatlin is about the only one.”

“He was also having a good time knowing that it was his last Olympic Games.”

This summer will be Bolt’s final IAAF World Track and Field Championships. They will be taking place in London, UK, Aug. 4 to Aug. 13.

Bolt is an eight-time Olympic gold medallist and an 11-time world champion. He held the world record in the 100, 200 and 4 x 100m relay at the same time; however, the relay world record and medal were forfeited due to teammate Nesta Carter’s disqualification upon a failed drug test.

As for Vancouver, De Grasse said, “Last year was a great opportunity to race at the Harry Jerome meet. The organisers put together a good field. This year, I look forward to competing on the faster track in Coquitlam and bringing a sub-10 second performance for my Canadian fans.”