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Where does that kind of conviction come from?
“I came out here to try to win gold,” De Grasse said after his 100-metre heat in Rio. “I’m a competitor, I feel like I have a good chance to take down these guys and I’m not going to wait until 2020, I want to do it now.”
Four months ahead of the Rio Olympics, De Grasse predicted he would win three medals. “I’m training hard to win three gold medals and I feel like I can accomplish a lot and I’m very young in the sport so I just want to go out there and do my best,” he said in the spring.
“I definitely had a great opportunity to contend with Usain for a gold medal,” said De Grasse, disappointed but resilient.
“I knew I had my top-end speed so I relied on that, my heat wasn’t too hard so I just wanted to cruise in,” said De Grasse after his 100 heat. He admitted to a safe (slower) start because he didn’t want to get disqualified, and he knew he could catch up.
De Grasse is new to high-level sprinting.
“I think I watched the 100 metres in London…or I think it was ’08…but I remember Richard Thompson from Trinidad because my mom is from Trinidad. We were cheering him on. But I can’t remember exactly,” said De Grasse after his 200 final.
His coach Stuart McMillan calls it naivety to the sport, a strength for De Grasse.
It’s not uncommon for athletes with less experience to have more success on bigger stages. They seem to be more relaxed. For example, 16-year-old Penny Oleksiak winning four swim medals at her first Olympics or golfer Brooke Henderson rising to the top of the LPGA in her rookie season.
For now, De Grasse is headed back to school at the University of Southern California. “I promised a lot of people I was going to get that done so I plan to have a degree in December and then just go get ready for next year, for London for the world championships,” said the native of Markham, Ont.
And his plan is to get faster.
There’s that confidence again.
With files from Stephanie Jenzer