Andre De Grasse is ready for the “playoffs.”
The star sprinter is set to compete in the 200 metres and help Canada defend its title in the men’s 4×100 relay at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, which run from Saturday to Aug. 27.
The Markham, Ont., native has had a tough year trying to bounce back after a 2022 season marred by injury.
The six-time Olympic medallist and reigning 200 Olympic champion understands how it is, though he’s not necessarily impressed by it.
“It’s tough, you know, with injuries and obviously starting the season off not the way you want it could put you in that category, I guess,” he said. “I’m a team sport guy, I come from a basketball [and] soccer background, so it’s all regular season to me.
“When the playoffs come, that’s the championship, that’s when you’ve really got to bring your A game and that’s what my main focus is, right? … We have these Diamond Leagues or [other] competitions, it’s like the regular season and the world champs or Olympics is the playoffs and that’s when you’ve got to bring your star power.”
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While he ignores much of the conversation around the favourites heading into Budapest, he is kept informed by those close to him.
“I feel like I hear that a lot, I guess I’m the underdog,” he said. “When I first came into track and was racing Usain Bolt, I was the underdog, and then people saying the Americans, I’m the underdog.
“I don’t let that bother me because I know what I’ve accomplished and what I’ve done and what I’m capable of doing. I just never really let that phase me and focus on myself and try to just make sure that whenever the championships do come, that I’m there and I’m ready to perform.”
De Grasse failed to run a worlds qualifying time for the 100, including having missed the final at nationals before running a season-best — and qualifying time — 20.01 seconds to win the national 200 title two days later in July.
Putting the result in the 100 behind him wasn’t easy.
“It was tough,” said De Grasse, the reigning Olympic bronze medallist in the 100. “That night, I didn’t get much sleep because I was like, ‘What happened?’ ‘Why did I perform so bad?’
“Just have to brush it off and I think having that extra day off, not racing again until Sunday, you just have to say, ‘Well, don’t worry about it, just focus on the next race and then after it’s all over, you could debrief and figure out what went wrong and how you can get better for the next time.’
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However, winning the 200 came with mixed feelings.
“In my mind, I was like, cool, I got a step in the right direction but I’m still a little bit far off from where I want to be, so I was 50/50 with it,” De Grasse said. “Now I’ve just got to try to figure out how I can clean up some stuff and figure out how I can get better from it.”
“It still was a cool feeling because I did it on home soil, the fans were excited and they were happy, everyone was cheering so I did feel 50 per cent better,” added De Grasse, who also did a meet and greet with fans that week at a local London Drugs on behalf of TUT Fitness, whose logo he’s donned all season.
‘Raise my game’
De Grasse failed to qualify for the 100 final and pulled out of the 200 before putting on a memorable performance as the anchor to help Canada win relay gold at the 2022 worlds.
Now healthy and with a reputation for performing at his best on the biggest stages — his personal bests in the 100 and 200 came in the Tokyo Olympic finals — De Grasse is ready.
“I just try to raise my game,” he said, while also crediting his team for his preparation. “Kind of like an all or nothing type of thing. This is it, this is the big stage and you’ve got to just do what it takes to win, right?
“I just come from that competitive mindset from playing other sports and being in that position before. I tell people all the time, you learn more from your losses than your wins.
“It helps me moving forward to just be ready for that moment.”