Still not at 100 per cent, De Grasse might shut down season and focus on next year

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TORONTO — Despite Andre De Grasse's sizzling anchor leg that secured Canada a thrilling relay victory at the world track and field championships, the sprint star still isn't feeling back at full health.

After a few months of battling an foot injury, then contracting COVID-19 a month before the world championships, De Grasse might shut down his season now and focus on next year.

"To be honest, it's been a struggle," De Grasse said. "I don't feel like I have like 100 per cent of my energy back. I think right now I just want to rest and recover until I start feeling like myself again, and then I can kind of make that decision.

"(The foot injury) has been lingering the whole season, so I want to try to get it back to 100 per cent. . . We'll see, we'll see what happens."

De Grasse, relay teammates Aaron Brown and Jerome Blake, and world decathlon silver medallist Pierce LaPage all withdrew from the Commonwealth Games, which opened Thursday in Birmingham, England. There are five Diamond League meets remaining over the next six weeks.

But a big two seasons beckon. There's another world championships in August of 2023 in Istanbul, and then the 2024 Paris Olympics.

"I want to get ready for next year, another worlds, and then I want to be healthy for the Olympic Games, because it could potentially be my last. So I want to be able to be great," De Grasse said.

"The stereotype is people get two or three Olympics," added De Grasse, who has competed in two, winning six medals. "But if I get a fourth one, I'll be grateful for that. I was talking to Glenroy (Gilbert, Athletics Canada's head coach) about I get a fourth Olympics, and I'm at my best, I'm at my prime, great. If not, and I'm just there to run the relay, it'd be a great moment as well.

"You just take it day by day, year by year, you don't try to think that far ahead."

De Grasse was in Toronto on Wednesday doing a round of media appearances for a sponsor promotion for Cheezmade, meatless chicken made from cheese.

Three days earlier, De Grasse salvaged a disappointing worlds with a thrilling gold — and Canadian record — in the 4x100 relay. It was Canada's first global relay victory in 25 years.

The 27-year-old from Markham, Ont., had never missed the medal podium in an individual event at a worlds or Olympics, but in Eugene, Ore., still feeling the effects of COVID-19, he missed the final of the 100 and scratched from the 200.

Earning gold with three teammates was a different kind of joy, he said.

"An individual (win) is like all your hard work has finally paid off in this moment. You can control it a little bit more, it's only you," De Grasse said. "The relay, you don't know what's going to happen until it happens."

De Grasse said he, Brown, Blake and Brandon Rodney have become friends. They know each other's parents, they know each other's kids.

"It felt really good to win gold with these guys. Because I know them on a personal level, we have that team chemistry, we've been together for so long. They're family to me . . . and we hang out together.

"It felt kind of like my basketball days, playing on a sports team. We got to hug each other, we felt the love. I guess in a sense, it kind of felt a bit different, because you got to actually share the glory with people with people that you know."

The Canadians edged the U.S. for relay gold, but De Grasse said it almost felt like a home victory. He saw numerous Canadian flags at Hayward Field, which is about an eight-hour drive south of Vancouver.

"There were a lot (of Canadians) cheering us on, it was loud," he said.

De Grasse ran a Canadian-record 19.62 seconds to win the Olympic 200 metres last summer in Tokyo. American Noah Lyles, who won bronze in Tokyo, captured gold at the world championships in a world-leading 19.31. He beat Kenny Bednarek of the U.S. by more than 0.4 of a second — a fair distance in sprint races.

De Grasse wasn't deflated by Lyles' fast time, but inspired.

"That's something that I feel like I'm definitely capable of," he said. "I wish I was a part of that race, to see where I would have been at 100 per cent, to see if I could have lowered my 19.6 performance from the Olympics.

"Definitely motivates me to say 'OK, I've got to get back at 100 per cent, get back on my A-game,' and there's going to be some rivalries, especially with the Americans who are running good as of now."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2022.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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