Andre De Grasse

Andre De Grasse, sprinter, philanthropist (born 10 November 1994 in Scarborough, ON). Andre De Grasse is the first Canadian to break both the 10-second barrier in the 100 m dash and the 20-second barrier in the 200 m dash. He burst onto the international stage at age 20, winning double gold at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, followed by a bronze medal in the 100 m at the 2015 World Track and Field Championships. At the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, De Grasse won silver in the 200 m, bronze in the 100 m and bronze in the 4x100 m relay. At the 2020 Games in Tokyo, he won gold in the 200 m and bronze in both the 100 m and the 4x100 m relay. He is the first Canadian sprinter to win three medals at a single Olympic Games. He also holds the Canadian record in the 200 m (19.62 seconds).

Andre De Grasse, sprinter, philanthropist (born 10 November 1994 in Scarborough, ON). Andre De Grasse is the first Canadian to break both the 10-second barrier in the 100 m dash and the 20-second barrier in the 200 m dash. He burst onto the international stage at age 20, winning double gold at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, followed by a bronze medal in the 100 m at the 2015 World Track and Field Championships. At the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, De Grasse won silver in the 200 m, bronze in the 100 m and bronze in the 4x100 m relay. At the 2020 Games in Tokyo, he won gold in the 200 m and bronze in both the 100 m and the 4x100 m relay. He is the first Canadian sprinter to win three medals at a single Olympic Games. He also holds the Canadian record in the 200 m (19.62 seconds).


Andre De Grasse

Early Life

Andre De Grasse was born to Beverley De Grasse and Alex Waithe in Scarborough, Ontario. He has three siblings: Julian, Alexandra and Dantee Waithe. His father moved to Canada from Barbados as a teenager, while his mother immigrated to Toronto from Trinidad and Tobago in her mid-20s. ( See also Caribbean Canadians.) Both De Grasse’s parents were sprinters in their youth.

De Grasse was raised by his mother in the Toronto suburb of Markham. As a child, De Grasse played soccer, basketball and baseball. Later, as a student at Milliken Mills High School, his focus narrowed to basketball. He excelled at the sport until Milliken Mills cancelled its basketball program in De Grasse’s final year. At the time, De Grasse was struggling in school; his grades were low and he was hanging out with the wrong crowd and using drugs. The loss of the basketball team didn’t help. On a whim, De Grasse, 17, decided to join friends and compete in a regional high school track and field meet.


First Race

During the York Region Track and Field Championships, held at York University in May 2012, De Grasse competed in the senior boys 100 m dash, 200 m dash and long jump. When he took his spot at the starting line for the 100 m dash — his first time trying the sport — De Grasse ignored the starting blocks. Instead he stood upright and sideways, like a baserunner. He wore a T-shirt, baggy basketball shorts and borrowed track spikes.

It took De Grasse 10.91 seconds to get from that awkward stance to the finish line. Though it wasn’t fast enough to win (he placed second), his time was remarkable, considering both his age and lack of experience. It is unusual for men in this age category (senior boys) to run 100 m in under 11 seconds, and De Grasse had done so in his first race, without the aid of starting blocks, coaching or proper training.

The feat caught the attention of Tony Sharpe, who won a bronze medal for Canada in the men’s 4x100 m relay at the 1984 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles. Sharpe was in the stands that day and invited De Grasse to join his track club, the Speed Academy, in Pickering, Ontario. “I’ve been in this sport 40 years, competed in the Olympics, seen a lot of fast guys,” Sharpe later told the Orange County Register. “In terms of pure talent, I’ve seen nothing like Andre De Grasse.”


College

After graduating from Milliken Mills in 2012, De Grasse attended Coffeyville Community College in Coffeyville, Kansas, from 2012 to 2014. Coffeyville, like many junior colleges, is well known for its athletic program, and is generally considered a track and field powerhouse. Many student athletes begin their careers at junior or community colleges, then transfer to major colleges. At Coffeyville, De Grasse won five National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) titles, including two in the 200 m and one in the 100 m.

From there, De Grasse was pursued by colleges all over the United States. He chose the University of Southern California (USC) and began training with coach Caryl Smith Gilbert in fall 2014. As a member of the USC Trojans, De Grasse turned heads at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships in June 2015. He won the 100 m dash with a time of 9.75 seconds and the 200 m dash in 19.58 seconds. Both times were wind aided (there was a tailwind of more than 2 m per second) and therefore couldn’t be counted as official NCAA records. Still, De Grasse’s times represented two of the fastest in the history of the sport. That year, for example, the fastest legal times were 9.74 seconds in the 100 m, posted by American sprinter Justin Gatlin, and 19.55 seconds in the 200 m, posted by Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.


2015 Pan Am Games

In the summer of 2015, Toronto hosted the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. De Grasse competed in the 100 m and 200 m races, as well as in the 4x100 m relay. As a hometown athlete hot off his remarkable performance at the NCAA Championships, De Grasse’s presence at the Games was highly anticipated. It had been 19 years since Donovan Bailey’s gold medal performance at the 1996 Olympic Games, and 16 years since Bruny Surin matched Bailey’s time of 9.84 seconds and won silver at the 1999 World Championships.

De Grasse won gold in both the 100 m and 200 m dashes, with times of 10.05 and 19.88 seconds respectively. His time in the 200 m race broke his own Canadian record. For a moment, many thought De Grasse had won a third gold medal after his team finished first in the 4x100 m relay. They were disqualified, however, when it was confirmed that Gavin Smellie had stepped out of his lane during the first leg of the race.

During the Pan Am Games, many observed what appeared to be De Grasse’s bewilderment with his rapid rise to stardom. He lacked the bravado typical of most of the fastest men in the world, looking around in awe as fans cheered the announcement of his name at the starting line. “A lot of people before this, they didn’t know how to pronounce my name,” De Grasse told the Toronto Star following his 200 m win. “They used to say De Grasseeee. But now I think everybody knows that my name is De Grasse [pronounced de grass].”


2015 World Championships

In August 2015, immediately following the Pan Am Games, De Grasse competed in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Beijing, China. It was the first time the 20-year-old competed in the 100 m dash against the likes of Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, and Justin Gatlin, who was generally considered the favourite to win. Known for overcoming slow starts with an incredible burst of speed in the final seconds, De Grasse emerged from the back of the pack to record a personal best time of 9.92. This tied for bronze with American Trayvon Bromell, behind Gatlin (9.8 seconds) and Bolt (9.79 seconds).

Professional Sprinter

De Grasse became a professional sprinter in December 2015. He signed a multi-year, $11.25 million sponsorship contract with Puma. He also left USC to work with coach Stuart McMillan at the ALTIS training centre in Phoenix, Arizona.

At only 5-foot-9 and 154 lb, De Grasse is remarkably short and slim for a sprinter. (Lori Ewing of the Canadian Press called him “a greyhound among Mack trucks.”) An imbalance in his hips led to a funky arm swing early in his career; his habit of fully extending his right arm behind him was dubbed the “Andre arm,” though he corrected this as he refined his technique. In the 100 m sprint, he is known for making up for a slow start through the first 50 m with a spectacular late kick that propels him to the front of the pack. He is best suited to the 200 m sprint, where he can take full advantage of his late-breaking speed.

2016 Olympic Summer Games

At the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, De Grasse won three medals. He became the first Canadian sprinter to do so at a single Olympic Games. He won silver in the 200 m with a time of 20.02 seconds, finishing behind Usain Bolt (19.78 seconds). In the 100 m, De Grasse (9.91 seconds) took the bronze behind American Justin Gatlin (9.89 seconds) and Bolt (9.81 seconds). De Grasse, Akeem Haynes, Brendon Rodney and Aaron Brown also took home the bronze medal in the men’s 4x100 m relay with a time of 37.64 seconds.

Following the Games, De Grasse returned to the University of Southern California. He finished his degree in sociology in December 2016.

Men's Relay Team, 2016 Olympic Games
Canadian relay team of Andre De Grasse, Brendon Rodney, Aaron Brown and Akeem Haynes celebrates their bronze medal in men's 4x100 relay, at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio.
Andre De Grasse, 2016 Olympic Games, 100m
Canadian Andre De Grasse won bronze in the men's 100m at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio, finishing behind Jamaican Usain Bolt and American Justin Gatlin.
Andre De Grasse, 2016 Olympic Games, 200m
Canadian Andre De Grasse won silver in the men's 200m at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio, finishing behind the great Jamaican runner, Usain Bolt.

Running Career 2016–19

Prior to the 2017 world championships, De Grasse was considered a favourite for gold in the 200 m. He was also looking forward to facing Usain Bolt in the 100 m. “I want to beat him before he retires,” he told the CBC. However, a hamstring injury forced De Grasse to withdraw from the championships. The following year, he was named to the Canadian team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games but withdrew to work on his fitness. That July, he suffered another hamstring injury during the national championships and lost his Canadian titles in both the 100 m and 200 m to teammate Aaron Brown.

Following his disappointing 2018 season, De Grasse switched coaches, leaving Stuart McMillan to train with American coach Rana Reider in Florida.

De Grasse returned to form at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. He won silver in the men’s 200 m with a time of 19.95 seconds and bronze in the men’s 100 m with a personal best time of 9.90 seconds.

2020 Olympic Summer Games

At the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan — which were postponed one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were held from 23 July to 8 August 2021 — De Grasse once again won three medals. He took bronze in the men’s 100 m with a person best time of 9.89 seconds and won gold in the 200 m with a time of 19.62 seconds — a new Canadian record.

The 4x100 m relay final offered arguably the best example to date of De Grasse’s explosive, late-breaking speed. With his team lagging in fifth place, De Grasse took the baton for the final 100 m and surged past Jamaica’s Oblique Seville and China’s Wu Zhiqiang to secure the bronze medal for Canada with a combined time of 37.70.


Personal Life and Charitable Activity

De Grasse and his partner, American hurdler Nia Ali, welcomed daughter Yuri in 2018. The pair met while they were both track athletes at USC. Ali won silver in the 100 m hurdles at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games.

Also in 2018, De Grasse launched the Andre De Grasse Family Foundation, which his mother, Beverly, helps administer. The charity aims to empower youth through sport and education. The foundation’s first initiative was the Andre De Grasse Future Champions Fund, which it established in conjunction with the Athletics Canada Foundation. The Fund provides scholarships to high school athletes who are not yet part of a track and field club.

Andre De Grasse

Honours and Awards

  • Lionel Conacher Award, Canadian Press (2016)
  • Rising Star Award, International Association of Athletics Federations (2016)
  • Harry Jerome Award, Black Business and Professional Association (2017)

Medal Record in International Competition

Olympic Summer Games

Rio 2016

200 m

silver

Rio 2016

100 m

bronze

Rio 2016

4x100 m relay

bronze

Tokyo 2020

200 m

gold

Tokyo 2020

100 m

bronze

Tokyo 2020

4x100 m relay

bronze

World Championships

Beijing 2015

100 m

bronze

Beijing 2015

4x100 m relay

bronze

Doha 2019

100 m

bronze

Doha 2019

200 m

silver

World Relays

Nassau 2017

4x200 m relay

gold

Pan American Games

Toronto 2015

100 m

gold

Toronto 2015

200 m

gold

Pan American Junior Championships

Medellin 2013

100 m

silver

Medellin 2013

200 m

bronze