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De Grasse shares life lessons from on and off the track in new book

Andre De Grasse Andre De Grasse - The Canadian Press

Reflecting on how he overcame obstacles in the past helped Andre De Grasse break out of his funk in 2023.

De Grasse had to look back at his life and his career while writing his new book "Ignite: Unlock the Hidden Potential Within," set to be released next week. That introspective process helped him overcome his recent struggles on the track and turn around his season.

“It just helped me realize … that you've always got to adapt to the situations (in) overcoming adversity,” the 28-year-old said. “There's always going to be ups and downs. I realized nothing's ever going to be perfect like you want it to be.

“It kind of helps because I ended up finishing my season (with) my first Diamond League trophy and I just was like, ‘Damn, like how did I this?’ I'm like, ‘How did I run my fourth-fastest time and the year was just not going my way?’ It just shows that it's all mental.”

The six-time Olympic medallist from Markham, Ont., closed out the 2022 season with a couple of eighth-place finishes in the 100-metre dash, then placed fifth, sixth, and seventh at a handful of events in April and May. But, as he continued to work on his book, he turned it around.

De Grasse closed the year with a season-best time of 19.76 seconds to win the men’s 200 metres at the Prefontaine Classic on Sept. 17. It was the fourth-fastest time of his career in the 200 and he became the first Canadian to win a Diamond League trophy since 2011.

His 19.89-second performance at a Diamond League meet nine days before in Belgium was his first sub-20-second performance since winning Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games in 2021, having had two bouts with COVID-19 and a nagging foot injury in 2022.

The book is not a memoir, he insisted.

"I've still got maybe like four or five years left," said De Grasse. "I want to go to Paris (for the 2024 Olympics), I want to try to do (the 2028 Games in) L.A."

Instead, "Ignite" is full of lessons he's learned on and off the track, and it shares stories from his life dating back to his childhood.

With that came more vulnerability than he’s used to showing the public

"I had to say things that I probably didn't feel comfortable with," said De Grasse, who prefers to confide in those closest with him.

But he feels the book is a matter of paying it forward, especially to the young people who might relate to his experience and find inspiration from his journey.

Part of that vulnerability was De Grasse admitting to moments of self-doubt in his career.

De Grasse, who’s known for his self-confidence and ability to perform on the biggest stages, opened up about doubts that crept in while dealing with a hamstring tear back in 2017, followed by a hamstring strain in 2018 in his return, along with his struggles in 2022.

"It was tough, man. It was tough," he said of opening up about those situations. “I got to let people know what exactly I felt in those moments, right?

“Of course, I never like to say it in the in the media. I never like to let my competitors know what's going through my mind, right? Because that's an advantage for them.”

He rebounded from the hamstring injuries with a bronze in the 100 and silver in the 200 at the 2019 worlds, followed by a trio of medals (100, 200, 4x100 relay) at the Tokyo Games, including his first Olympic gold with a personal-best time of 19.62 seconds in the 200.

After closing out a tough 2022 season with a memorable anchor leg, leading Canada to world championship gold in the 4x100 relay, picking up that momentum this year was a challenge.

"Right now, it might take a while but I've got to keep being patient and persevering and telling myself that I'm going to get through this hump,” he told The Canadian Press in July before the Canadian championships.

He wasn’t able to do it at worlds in August — finishing sixth in the 200 — and was seemingly out of the general conversation of medal contenders at next year’s Olympics.

However, his Diamond League Final performance put him back in those talks.

"You're always judged by your last race in our sport," he said. "So knowing that my last race went well, it gives me a lot of momentum (for next year).

"It gives me the self-confidence to say, ‘Hey, I ended off my year off of that.’"

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2023.