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De Grasse finds motivation on familiar grounds ahead of Olympic year

Andre De Grasse Andre De Grasse - The Canadian Press

Andre De Grasse is back in familiar territory and motivated by some strong competition in preparation for an important Olympic year.

The six-time Olympic medallist and reigning 200-metre Olympic champion from Markham, Ont., is back with his old coach Rana Reider in Jacksonville, Fla., at Tumbleweed Track Club.

De Grasse, 29, now trains alongside reigning 100 Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy and 2022 100 world bronze medallist Trayvon Bromell of the U.S. He relishes the motivation and push he missed during last year's solo training.

“(Last year) motivated me,” De Grasse said. "(It) was tough, not being able to have training partners.

“It wasn’t an ideal season of course, I struggled a bit with injuries, coming back from injuries, things like that. But just making it to the (worlds) finals, being a Diamond League champion, I was able to do a little bit of that with no training partners.

“But I just know that I could be so much better when I have people that are pushing me and motivating me … They have different strengths that could help me.”

After a season under John Coghlan in Orlando, Fla., De Grasse has returned to Jacksonville, a move he favours for various reasons, including its suitability for his kids and family.

“I remember what worked for me,” he said. “John was a great coach and I learned a lot from him so it had nothing to do with that. We had a good time, I learned a lot from him as an athlete … I was able to take some of the things I learned from him and kind of bring it back over here.

“It’s just that familiarity with Rana, being back with him … I had a lot of great success with him.”

De Grasse split from Reider in 2022 while the coach was being investigated for sexual misconduct by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

Reider's case was resolved on May 9, as confirmed by his legal team. He admitted to a “consensual romantic relationship with an adult athlete” and faced no violation of other sexual misconduct claims.

The resolution included Reider, 53, agreeing to one year of probation with the U.S. Center of SafeSport, permitting him to continue training elite sprinters.

De Grasse reached his highest heights under Reider between 2018 and 2022. He achieved personal bests in the 100 (9.89 seconds) and 200 (19.62) at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, in addition to his best individual result at a worlds, with his 200 silver in 2019.

After battling two bouts with COVID and a nagging foot injury in 2022, De Grasse struggled to find his footing in 2023 until late in the season.

He was a last-minute qualifier for worlds, having to win the 200 national title in July on the final day of the qualifying window. He failed to qualify for the 100 event and finished sixth in the 200 at worlds.

But things finally clicked for him when he ran 19.89 at a Diamond League event on Sept. 8 and he followed that up by winning his first Diamond League title on Sept. 17 in 19.76, his fourth-fastest time ever in the 200.

They were the first sub-20 second performances for him since he won Olympic gold in the 200 in Tokyo.

Although some athletes avoid revealing their strategies to potential rivals during training, De Grasse is fine with it as he embraces the experience of joining a renowned coach and team.

“We all have our own Olympic trials and we all have to make our own teams,” he said. “I guess when it gets to that point, the work is almost done and, in that sense, now, it’s just sharpening up and making sure that you’re ready for that moment.

“That’s when, of course, it gets a little bit more intense in that last month, … we’re battling, competing against each other a little bit more but I always find that always brings out the best of us."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 21, 2023.