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Sprinter Andre De Grasse on chasing Usain Bolt and carrying Canada's Olympic hopes

Andre De Grasse speaks on chasing Usain Bolt
© Reuters
Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse speaks on his famous showdown with Usain Bolt in the 2016 Olympic Games 200m semi-final, and the pride at representing his country in Tokyo.

Three-time Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse recently spoke out on his famous battle with Usain Bolt, and his delight at representing Canada at this summer's Games in Tokyo.

As expected, Jamaican world champion Usain Bolt had cruised into the lead in the second 200m semi-final at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, with only 50 metres between him and the finish line.

Seemingly without any close competition, the defending champion seemed to be in cruise control, only to be joined by plucky Canadian Andre De Grasse, who pulled up alongside Bolt and began to look across at the planet's fastest man.

At the age of just 21 years old and in his first Olympic Games, De Grasse exchanged a stare with Bolt, keeping at the Jamaican's pace until his counterpart was forced to kick into his unmatchable gear in the race to the finishing line.

While Bolt advanced as the race winner after a neck-and-neck showdown, the look the two shared and the pressure on the world champion to up his pace lived long in the memory, and the pair exchanged smiles knowing that they would meet in the final the following day.

Speaking to Betway Insider, De Grasse said "It was like we were just having fun out there", before going on to say he and his trainer "Didn't expect to see Usain in the semi-finals".

The Canadian would go on to describe his trainer's approach, as he was told he was "Going to have to make him run" and that he "Can't make it too easy for him".

"I ran a good, hard 150m, I looked to my side and I was like: 'OK, he's starting to slow down, and I'm close to him'" said De Grasse as he spoke on his personal experience in the race as he closed in on the faltering leader of the semi-final.

He concluded his analysis of his breakout race by saying: "That was really just me going out there having fun, and just trying to do my best."

Now at the age of 26, one year older than he would have been if the Games were to have gone ahead as planned in 2020, the Canadian has kicked off the final preparations for his second Olympic Games, having won 200m silver and 100m bronze in 2016 alongside a bronze in the 4x100m relay.

Following that impressive introduction to the world stage, and without Bolt as a clear runaway leader, De Grasse lines up among the favourites to finish on the podium for both distances in the Japanese capital.

"I think I have done a good job of coping with that [pressure] because I've had that experience from 2016," he said, moving on to discuss the upcoming Games.

"I feel like I have a lot more experience on my side. I know what to expect, whether that's warming up, going to the call room or going through the rounds," said a confident 26-year-old with the expectations of a country on his shoulders, as he is seen as the most likely person to deliver a medal for Canada on the athletics track.

The three-time medalist would go on to further talk about his approach, saying: "It's kind of a strategy, where you have to conserve energy so that when you get to the finals, you can have a personal best. I'm just hoping to keep that in my back pocket and that's going to help me towards these Games."

That plan has certainly produced results for De Grasse, who went on to pick up a silver medal in 200m and a bronze in 100m at the 2019 World Championships after his Olympic Games debut three years previously, having produced his best races when it mattered the most, posting a personal best time of 9.91s in the 100m final in Rio and Canadian record of 19.80 seconds in the 200m showdown with Bolt.

On the pressure on him within his home nation, De Grasse would go on to say: "People say: 'What does it feel like to have the weight of the country your shoulders?' It just feels awesome that people would say that because I never realise how many kids and people I inspire back home, I know my country put that pressure on me. They always believed that I could do it, people back home."

While he seemingly enjoys the support of his fans, he will not be short of pressure as he enters this year's postponed Games as the face of Canadian athletics, with expectations high for a podium finish in at least one of the two distances, having already collected silver medals in his last two major 200m competitions.

If he manages to win either of the distances this year, the 26-year-old would become just the second Canadian athlete to win a gold medal in an individual sprint event at the Olympic Games, after Donavan Bailey's success in the 100m at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

De Grasse is known to have stayed in touch with Bailey, and has attributed a portion of his success to the former gold medalist's support alongside that of former relay runner Bruny Surin, saying "Donovan messages me, Bruny Surin messages me all the time, so it's pretty awesome that the people before who have done it are rooting for me."

"I met Donovan back in 2015 when I won the Pan American Games in Toronto. And then I had a little event in 2016, I invited him and he came out. It was pretty cool, pretty awesome to talk to him and hear stories about back when he was running," he would go on to say.

While De Grasse's position in Canadian athletics history is already cemented after his battle with Bolt, he is confident in his ability to go even further this time round and secure that elusive gold medal in Tokyo.

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