De Grasse looks to be at peak condition as targeted return to competition approaches
Reaching peak health has been the theme of the off-season for superstar sprinter Andre De Grasse.
The Markham, Ont., native dealt with a nagging foot injury and a second bout of COVID in 2022. The latter happened under a month before the world championships, where he failed to qualify for the 100-metre final, then pulled out of the 200 before leading Canada to gold in the 4x100 relay.
With a "tough" 2022 season behind him, however, the reigning Olympic 200 champion says the goal is to maintain a clean bill of health this year.
“I know when I'm healthy I can do some great things,” De Grasse told The Canadian Press. “It's still early right now, so I wanted to stay here, you know, one step at a time and be healthy. And then when I'm healthy, of course, I start to plan out all my goals as the season moves on.
“I'm always confident in my ability. … If I'm healthy, I'm super confident. Obviously, if I'm not healthy then it's going to be hard to give it my best effort."
De Grasse, 28, has yet to compete in 2023, having last raced Sept. 12 in the 100, posting a time of 10.37 in Bellinzona, Switzerland.
Since then, De Grasse moved from Jacksonville, Fla., to Orlando, Fla., and began training with new coach John Coghlan. Along with partner, Nia Ali, and their three kids, they moved into their new home in January after some time in an Airbnb — with some boxes still to be unpacked.
“It's been a little bit hectic (and) overwhelming but that's part of life, I guess,” De Grasse said. “But it's a good thing.
“It's good to be uncomfortable a little bit, and then eventually you get into the rhythm, you find your balance and you get comfortable again in a new city. So, that's what I'm trying to do right now.”
He was also named an honorary co-chair of Kids Help Phone’s fundraising campaign, Feel Out Loud, on Thursday. It aims to support youth with mental health issues.
“For sure," he said regarding it resonating with him as a father. "I definitely want it to feel like, ‘Hey, this is a good space if you feel like you have no one to reach out to.’
"You pick up the phone and (are) able to talk to someone about how you feel and that can help go a long way in a person's life because not every kid might have a parent or a friend or a family member (to talk to)."
While De Grasse has enjoyed time with family, the lengthy period away from competition has served as an opportunity to get back to form.
“I'm feeling good,” he said.
"I'm just trying to get back to practice, get back to training, working hard and getting around the track and getting my times down.
“Of course it's a new process with a new coach trying to get to know each other and figure out what works and what doesn't work. But overall, I feel good about it, I’m positive and I feel like I'll be ready for the year, when that time comes.”
De Grasse has his eyes set on potentially returning to competition in April, but not without any emotions as that time nears.
“Of course there's a little bit of nerves, … haven't ran in a while and the last couple of times I ran, it wasn't a great race,” he said, “But like people are always saying in track and field, you just move on to the next race. You don't think about the last one because anything could happen.”
Although the world championships are set to go Aug. 19-27 in Budapest, Hungary and the Paris Olympics happening next summer, the six-time Olympic medallist is trying to be present in the moment.
“I don't like to think too far ahead. I know time flies and things are moving quickly,” he said. “Of course you want to plan and that's good to set goals. But I kind of just … focus on the day and focus on the hour and how I can get better that way.
“But when the time comes, when it's a world championship or Olympics, you're hoping that you're ready to peak. You're ready, you're healthy, you’re 100 per cent and you're ready to go.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2023.
Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press