If anybody can spoil the Usain Bolt–Justin Gatlin showdown at the World Championships in August, it may be a Canadian who was 9 years old when Bolt and Gatlin debuted at the Olympics.
“I feel like I can be competitive with these guys,” Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse said in a media teleconference Thursday, according to the Canadian Press. “I’ve just got to put my mind to it and feel confident that I can go out there and beat these guys. I can’t be afraid of them just because they are gold medalists. I have to go out there and try to make a name for myself as well.”
De Grasse, 20, completed what NBC Olympics analyst Ato Boldon called the best sprint double in history at the NCAA Championships last Friday.
“My phone is still blowing up,” De Grasse said six days later of the reaction.
The times do not count for records because De Grasse benefitted from tailwinds of 2.7 and 2.4 meters/second, above the legal maximum 2.0 meters/second.
In the 100m, only Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell and Justin Gatlin have run faster in legal wind conditions.
In the 200m, only Bolt, Blake, Michael Johnson and Walter Dix have been faster in legal conditions.
De Grasse’s personal bests in legal conditions are 9.97, making him the No. 3 Canadian all time behind 1996 Olympic champion Donovan Bailey and 1995 and 1999 World silver medalist Bruny Surin, and 20.03, a Canadian record.
He’s cut .18 off of his 100m personal best this year and .35 off his 200m personal best. This for a Markham, Ontario, native who reportedly didn’t start sprinting until May 2012.
De Grasse plans to run at the Canadian Championships in Edmonton the first weekend of July, then the 100m and 200m at the Pan American Games in Toronto later next month and the 100m (but not the 200m) at the World Championships in Beijing in late August.
De Grasse hasn’t turned professional yet, leaving open the possibility to return to USC for his senior track season. He’s been offered a seven-figure shoe deal, according to the Canadian Press.
At Worlds, De Grasse may be the biggest threat to Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion and fastest man in 2014 (9.77) and 2015 (9.74), and Bolt, whose 2009 world record is 9.58. Gatlin is 13 years older than De Grasse. Bolt is eight years older.
The other fastest men this year — Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay — are 32 years old.