Series31 Oct 2016

First impressions – Andre De Grasse


Andre De Grasse at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)

Canadian sprint sensation Andre de Grasse is among the hottest young athletics talents on the planet. Here the Olympic 200m silver and 100m and 4x100m bronze medallist puts his energy into answering our first impressions questions.

First coach

That was Tony Sharpe (the 1984 Olympic 4x100m bronze medallist). He was the guy who first discovered me and who was at the track and saw me run 10.90 for the 100m. He has been a big influence. He helped me get a scholarship to go off to junior college in Kansas and every time I come home from school he helps me prepare for whatever major championship I have coming up. We always keep in touch. He has been a big help and he’s done a lot for me over the years. I’m just grateful to have his leadership and support.

First race

I competed in the 100m, 400m and 800m at the York regional championships as an under-10 athlete. I won the 100m and 400m and finished second at the 800m. At the time I was running a bit of cross country, which helped me in the 800m. I was out of breath after the 800m and I never ran the 800m again.

First sport

It was soccer. I was a rep standard player and played the game up until the age of 12. I was a striker and I remember receiving a couple of awards as player of the season because I scored the most goals on the team. Even today I miss kicking a soccer ball around.

First international competition

That came at the 2013 Pan American Junior Championships in Medellin, Colombia. I placed second in the 100m and third in the 200m. Back then, because I was new to the sport, I didn’t know a lot about track and field but it was a fun experience. It has been great seeing how people on that Canadian team have since developed.

First international medal

It was at those same Pan American Junior Championships. Coming from a soccer and a basketball background, I was unused to standing on a podium and it was an awkward feeling at first to be told to stand here and shake the hands of the person. Yet winning medals at that meet was a huge confidence boost. I got the chance to experience what it is like to run in front of a big crowd in a big stadium and it definitely made it easier for me when competing in future competitions.

First disappointment

That came at my first senior meet – the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I didn’t think I would get the opportunity to run the 4x100m, so when coach told me to run the final, I was nervous. I ran the anchor leg in the final, and I’m not sure if I took off too quickly but I didn’t receive the baton in the exchange zone and we were disqualified. It was a great chance for us to win a medal and it took me about a month to get over the disappointment. I really felt I’d let my team down, although I used the disappointment as motivation for the next year.

First sporting hero

I love basketball and one of my favourite NBA players was Allen Iverson. I loved watching him play and I tried to play just like him. He was so competitive and he worked so hard. He changed the whole outlook of basketball with the tattoos and his crossover against Michael Jordan. He changed the game for my generation and I really looked up to him.

First tattoo

I had my mum’s name (Beverley) tattooed on my chest. I remember getting it aged 16 for Mother’s Day. At first she was like, ‘Oh my God. You have a tattoo!’ But over time she appreciated it. I really appreciate my mum. She has always been there for me and she’s done so much to get me where I am in my career.

First toy

It was probably one of those toy trucks, where I used to open the door. Maybe a fire truck.

First car

A Honda Accord Sport, which I still have today. I love it, although some people make fun of me a little bit and say, ‘when are you going to buy a new car?’ But I love my car and growing up I always wanted a Honda.

First pet

I never had a pet growing up, although I would like to raise a dog from a puppy. I really like blue nose pitbulls. They are like a nice version of a pitbull.

Steve Landells for the IAAF