With new coach, new home, Andre De Grasse feeling good as push begins toward Paris Olympics
After some major life changes including moving cities and changing coaches, Canadian Olympic champion sprinter Andre De Grasse is finally settling into his new surroundings in Orlando, Fla., and is ready to start mapping out what success looks like this season.
In December, the six–time Olympic medallist, the country's most decorated male Olympian, announced he had changed coaches and was hitting the reset button ahead of the looming Paris 2024 Olympics.
De Grasse, 28, is now working with Irishman John Coghlan to get his sprinting back on track ahead of this summer's world championships in after a frustrating 2022 that included a foot injury and two bouts of COVID-19.
Coghlan has an accomplished resume. He moved from Dublin to Orlando in 2020 to work with Puerto Rico hurdler Jasmine Camacho-Quinn. At the Tokyo Games, Camacho-Quinn won the 100-metre hurdles to deliver Puerto Rico's first Olympic gold in track and field.
"It's going to be an adjustment. We're only three months into training and still trying to get to know each other and get on the same page. But so far, so good," De Grasse told CBC Sports. "I'm trying to adjust to the move too. It's always a little bit stressful moving cities and places, especially now with kids."
De Grasse had spent the last three seasons working with his former coach Rana Reider, who is being investigated by the U.S. Center for SafeSport for sexual misconduct. De Grasse told the Canadian Press in December the change "had nothing to do really with what was happening."
De Grasse and his partner, Nia Ali, an American hurdler, have three young children and are both high-performance athletes, so there is pressure on and off the track for both in their busy lives.
For De Grasse, though, the focus is shifting quickly to this upcoming season and the world championships set for Budapest in August.
This past summer at worlds in Eugene, De Grasse was unable to make the 100m final and withdrew from the 200m event. He was competing just a couple of weeks removed from COVID-19. and it left him fatigued and short of breath at times.
De Grasse was able to return to Hayward Field, however, on the second-last day of the meet to help the Canadian men's 4x100m relay win gold alongside Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake and Brendon Rodney.
WATCH | Breaking down Canada's 4x100 relay win:
He says it's now about getting those individual races back to where he wants them to be and believes Coghlan can help him do that.
"I'll pick this up quickly and get back to running fast and get back on the podium," he said. "As the season approaches I'll start mapping out more of my goals. Right now it's trying to get some familiarity with my coach and be on the same page with things. We're trying to get to know each other — what worked in the past and what didn't."
De Grasse says he meets with Coghlan once a week to talk about how the training is going and what adjustments need to be made. He describes this process as a challenging one, but a "good challenge.
"It's always good to mix things up. In the next couple months I'll start mapping my goals for Budapest," he said. "The good thing this year at least is that worlds are later than usual so I'll have more time to figure things out.
"It's good to face some adversity and now it's time to get the ball rolling. It's still early, we're still new to the environment and atmosphere."
Despite having a packed schedule between training and moving and looking after three kids, De Grasse is still finding time to give back, something he says has always been important to him.
On Thursday, De Grasse was named an honourary co-chair of a new Kids Help Phone campaign aimed at specially improving the mental health of youth and ensuring children have the resources to ensure that happens.
"We saw during the pandemic a lot of kids were struggling. They weren't able to play sports, see their friends and go outside. They need that safe space. And for me to be able to use my platform to help these kids and make sure their mental health is taken care of, it makes me feel awesome," De Grasse said.
WATCH | De Grasse keen to give back with charity basketball tournament:
This work has become increasingly important for De Grasse, now armed with the perspective of a father. He wants to do everything possible to help kids thrive in whatever path they choose.
In December he was back home in Toronto for his Andre De Grasse Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament. De Grasse tries to pay it forward because he says there were many people along his journey who provided him the same support.
"When I was growing up I got help and resources from people and it helped me push past my limits," De Grasse said. "Who would have thought today I'd be an Olympic champion and represent Canada on the national stage. It makes me feel special that I can help change lives.
"I never thought I'd be able to do something like that in my life. I'm here today doing that and grateful to be making a difference."