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Andre De Grasse’s coach shot down the Canadian sprinter’s reported admission he was battling “injury concerns” after Saturday’s 200-metre win at the Jamaica International Invitational.
“There have been no injury concerns,” Stuart McMillan wrote in an email to CBC Sports on Tuesday. “Anything he has been feeling is the normal wear and tear of being an elite athlete.”
Retired Canadian sprinter-turned CBC Sports track analyst Donovan Bailey added De Grasse has experienced “a strenuous training schedule” of late but doesn’t believe the Markham, Ont., runner to be injured.
The 22-year-old De Grasse, who won three medals in his Olympic debut last summer, is scheduled to run the men’s 100 on Saturday at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene Ore., considered the most prestigious of the Diamond League series. The race will be live streamed on CBC Television and CBCSports.ca at 5:24 p.m. ET.
Bailey, the former Olympic 100 champion who retired from competitive running following the 2001 season, said he doesn’t remember racing when everything was “in tune” both physically and psychologically.
“There are several races I ran that I shouldn’t have,” Bailey said, adding he chalked up the sore calves and ankles that accompanied his ruptured Achilles tendon in 1998 to just “part of the pain. I had an extremely high-pain threshold and in order to be an athlete you have to. You never train without discomfort and you never compete without discomfort.
“Daily therapy is very important and something I was very cognizant of, as is Andre and the rest of the Canadian team.”
Bailey expects De Grasse to top the field on the Hayward Field track in Eugene, where he won the 100 and 200 at the 2015 NCAA championships, and post a sub-10-second time along with Ronnie Baker and Michael Rodgers of the United States.
Fellow American Justin Gatlin has had a modest start to the season and sat out the recent Diamond League meet in Shanghai after deciding his form wasn’t high enough to compete, but the 35-year-old will be seeking a sixth Prefontaine title and second victory of the season against De Grasse.
Bailey said De Grasse, who finished behind Gatlin at the season-opening Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar, has been focused more on exiting the starting blocks quicker this season, given his outstanding top-end speed, rather than who he’s running against.
“His gait isn’t as wide as [six-foot-five, world-record holder] Usain Bolt so it’s important he get an advantage coming out of the blocks,” said Bailey of the five-foot-eight De Grasse. “The greatest advantage Andre has is his support system is in place … and he’s extremely confident because he knows he belongs [with the elite sprinters].
“Andre wants to win one race [the 100] this year, in London [United Kingdom at the world championships Aug. 5-13],” Bailey added. “Every single race, every single weekend, every single practice [until then] is a lesson.”
De Grasse undoubtedly will have redemption on his mind after slowly coming out of the blocks in his first major test of the 2016 season at the Prefontaine Classic and finishing last in 10.05 while Gatlin won in a wind-aided 9.88.
Here’s a breakdown of the other Canadian contingent in Eugene:
Mo Ahmed, men’s 5,000 (Saturday, 4:13 p.m. ET): The 26-year-old, who finished fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will attempt to break his national outdoor record of 13 minutes 1.74 seconds, set at last year’s Prefontaine Classic.
Shawn Barber, men’s pole vault (Saturday, 3:40 p.m. ET): Barber placed third in his first Diamond League meet of the season two weeks ago in Shanghai, topping his season-best vault of 5.50 metres with a successful attempt at 5.60.
Fun outing this weekend for 3rd at the Shanghai @Diamond_League event. More good things to come! pic.twitter.com/RwcW10xxjN
Melissa Bishop, women’s 800 (Saturday, 5:16 p.m. ET): Bishop, who hails from Eganville, Ont., will be making her outdoor season debut. She set a national mark in the event at last year’s Rio Olympics, missing the podium by 0.13 seconds.
Sasha Gollish, women’s 1,500 (Friday, 11:14 p.m. ET): At 35, Gollish narrowly missed the world standard in L.A., stopping the clock in 4:07.70. The Toronto native won her first national title at the Canadian cross-country championships on Nov. 26.
Gabriela Stafford, women’s 1,500: The London, Ont.-born runner is coming off a season-best 4:08.41 in L.A. Stafford, the 2016 Canadian university champion in the 1,000 and 1,500, finished ninth in her heat at her Olympic debut in Rio.
Gen Lalonde, women’s 3,000 steeplechase (Friday, 11:25 p.m. ET): Lalonde, 25, broke the Canadian record last year in Eugene in 9:32.17 and then ran 9:30.24 in a heat race in Rio de Janeiro before becoming the first Canadian woman to compete in the Olympic women’s 3,000 final. A Moncton, N.B., native, Lalonde ran 9:36.88 at the Payton Jordan Invitational in early May
Liz Gleadle, women’s javelin (Friday, 10:34 p.m. ET): The 28-year-old Vancouver native won at last weekend’s Jamaica International Invitational with a throw of 60.79 that puts her 17th on the world list. Gleadle is the Canadian record holder at 64.83.
Christabel Nettey, women’s long jump (Friday, 10:37 p.m. ET): In 2015, Nettey leaped a Canadian record 6.99 at the Prefontaine Classic that still stands. Three weeks ago, the 25-year-old jumped a season-best 6.64 to finish second at the Eagle Rock Oxy Invitational in California.
CBC Sports is provided live streaming coverage of all 14 Diamond League meets this season at CBCSports.ca and via the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices. TV coverage will be featured as part of the network’s Road To The Olympic Games weekend broadcasts throughout the season.
The following is a list of upcoming Diamond League meets on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app: