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Andre De Grasse ready to overtake Usain Bolt this summer

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ROME (AP) — Andre De Grasse isn’t interested in taking over from Usain Bolt as the world’s best sprinter when the eight-time Olympic champion retires later this year.

He’s ready now.

“I’m trying to win this year. I feel like I have a great chance, and that’s what I want to do,” De Grasse told The Associated Press ahead of Thursday’s Golden Gala Pietro Mennea meet, where the Canadian will run the 200m (NBC Sports Gold, 12:15 p.m. ET and NBCSN, 2 p.m. ET).

MORE: Rome Preview

Bolt won’t be running in Rome, but De Grasse is looking forward to racing the Jamaican great at the world championships in London in August.

“I feel like I have a great chance in both events — 100m or 200m,” De Grasse said, though Bolt has said he won’t race the 200m at worlds. “If I can execute my race and I’m in top shape I feel like I can do that.”

The 22-year-old De Grasse took silver behind Bolt in the 200m at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and bronze behind Bolt and Justin Gatlin in the 100m. Having also anchored Canada to a bronze medal in the 4x100m relay in Rio, De Grasse became the first Canadian sprinter to win three medals in a single Olympics.

De Grasse pushed Bolt so hard in the semifinals of the 200m in Rio that Bolt acknowledged it was draining and prevented him from improving his world record a night later.

So what would it take to beat Bolt in the 100m in August?

“No idea. It’s anybody’s game. You can’t name a time,” De Grasse said. “It’s always about weather and conditions and those types of things. But it’s going to obviously take a well-executed race. I have to be at the top of my game and if I can do that I can do something special.”

De Grasse is working on improving his starts, which also happens to be the only area that Bolt struggles in.

“If I can have a great start and try to hold the lead that would be great,” De Grasse said. “My top-end speed is good. It’s all about finding the right factors to go out there and win.”

As a teen, De Grasse ran one of his first races wearing basketball shorts and borrowed shoes. He stood up in the blocks while others crouched. It launched his career and led him to signing a big contract with Puma — the same company that sponsors Bolt.

“I was a basketball guy growing up so most of my guys that I looked up to were in the NBA like Allen Iverson and Vince Carter,” said De Grasse, who was born in Ontario to Caribbean parents. “I never really had any track fanatics growing up that I idolized.”

At the Stadio Olimpico, De Grasse’s top competition should come from Olympic bronze medalist Christophe Lemaitre of France.

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MORE: Bolt ducks fastest rivals in final Jamaican meet

Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

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For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

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2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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