Andre De Grasse fine-tuning all aspects of his race in pursuit of Olympic gold

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May 8, 2002
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After Andre De Grasse won bronze in the 100 metres at the 2016 Olympics, gold medallist Usain Bolt offered the young Canadian a compliment."He runs just like me," the legendary Jamaican sprinter said. "I mean, he's really slow at the blocks, but when he gets going, he gets going."OK, so mostly a compliment, with some sage advice mixed in too.Bolt, at six-foot-five, always possessed enough top-end speed to make up for slower reaction times out of the blocks. At five-foot-nine, the more diminutive De Grasse lacks those long strides and any weakness at the start becomes more pronounced.Still, Bolt and De Grasse share that penchant to produce peak performance when it matters most."When it comes to the championship, I'm hoping that I'm close to my personal best and then when I get to the championship I can run a fast time and run a personal best and then break a record while I'm at it or something," De Grasse told CBC Sports in a recent interview.Five months out of the Tokyo Olympics, and with Bolt now retired, the Markham, Ont., native says his whole 100 metres is being fine-tuned."Working on everything. Working on my start, making sure my top-end speed is getting better because that's gonna be key to my success. Getting stronger in the weight room, been lifting four times a week now," De Grasse said."So just trying to develop a little bit more muscle so I have a lot of stamina, endurance through the rounds because I'm getting a little bit older so a little fatigue here and there."The 25-year-old has homed in on explosive exercises like squats, paired with refined technique, to boost his reaction time from the blocks.Of course, the weakness has never truly been an Achilles heel for De Grasse. He's won seven medals over the course of eight world championship or Olympic finals, with the lone miss coming by five-thousandths of a second in the 4x100 relay at the world championships in October.De Grasse also won bronze in the 100 there in a personal-best time of 9.90 seconds, one-hundredth of a second behind silver medallist Christian Coleman. Justin Gatlin took gold.WATCH | De Grasse surges to 100 bronze at worlds:The Canadian then earned silver in the 200, which wrapped a repeat of his individual performance at the 2016 Olympics, where he also added relay bronze.Those podium finishes represented the culmination of two injury-fraught years for De Grasse following Rio. If there were questions about whether the Olympic performance was a mere blip, they were put to rest."When I got to worlds in October I felt like, 'OK, I'm in decent shape. I feel fit enough that I can go out there and compete and maybe take a medal,' and that's what I kind of just had — that optimistic mind and mentality going forward," De Grasse said.WATCH | De Grasse takes silver in 200:After the windfall at worlds, De Grasse says he took some downtime, including a vacation to Dubai. He's been trying to knock off his sponsor engagements now so that training can become the sole focus as the Olympics creep closer.De Grasse, along with other top sprinters, skipped this year's world indoor season because of the condensed schedule after worlds in Doha, Qatar were pushed back to October because of heat concerns.The potential for heat in Tokyo is raising those same concerns. De Grasse's plan is to arrive in Japan two or three weeks ahead of the Games to acclimate himself.De Grasse resumed training around his Nov. 10 birthday in Jacksonville, Fla., where he's been working with American sprint guru Rana Reider for more than a year. He said he may participate in some local meets in Florida before starting his season at a Diamond League meet in May.The world championships also served as confirmation for De Grasse's move to the Sunshine State."When you go to something new, it changes a little bit different. You may have a little bit of doubts, a little bit of worries, be a little bit nervous, be a little bit scared, but now as time moves on you know it's fun. I have a lot of confidence," De Grasse said.In that sense, the Canadian's journey in this four-year Olympic cycle somewhat resembles one of his races. Slow out of the blocks, steady build through the heats and peak when the lights are brightest.

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