De Grasse captures hearts — sec­ond ti­tle

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - LORI EWING

Long af­ter sprint star Andre De Grasse had raced to his sec­ond vic­tory at the Cana­dian track and field cham­pi­onships, he was still pos­ing for pic­tures and sign­ing au­to­graphs.

“I signed some­one’s hand. Some­one’s neck,” De Grasse said with a laugh. “That was kind of weird when I signed some­one’s neck.”

The triple medal­list from last sum­mer’s Rio Olympics raced to his first Cana­dian 200-me­tre ti­tle on Sun­day — and sec­ond gold medal of the meet — sprint­ing to a slightly wind-aided time of 19.96 sec­onds.

De Grasse won his third na­tional 100 ti­tle on Fri­day.

Fans packed the 6,500-seat Terry Fox Sta­dium to see the 22-yearold from Markham.

An Ath­let­ics Canada of­fi­cial said it was the big­gest crowd the na­tional meet has ever seen.

“I’m amazed and shocked that so many peo­ple want my au­to­graph,” said De Grasse. “It’s a cool feel­ing for me, I’m just happy to see all the lit­tle kids’ faces light up ev­ery time I take a pic­ture with them.”

De Grasse had some 60 friends and fam­ily mem­bers — all dressed in red De Grasse T-shirts — in at­ten­dance.

They posed for a group photo. The pho­tog­ra­pher in­structed them to “Say ‘De Grasse!’”

Sun­day’s 200 was one of the meet’s high­lights, fea­tur­ing Canada’s three fastest sprint­ers in his­tory in that dis­tance — De Grasse, and Toronto’s Aaron Brown and Bren­don Rod­ney.

Rod­ney was sec­ond in 20.02, while Brown crossed third in 20.13.

De Grasse was pushed by the two around the bend, fi­nally tak­ing the lead down the straight­away. The sprint star said he’s been fo­cus­ing more on the 100 this sea­son.

“But af­ter to­day I see my 200 needs a lit­tle bit of work if I want to be­come a gold medal­list,” he said.

He has five weeks be­fore the world cham­pi­onships in Lon­don, where he’ll face Usain Bolt one fi­nal time be­fore the Ja­maican su­per­star re­tires.

Bolt has said he won’t run the 200 at worlds.

De Grasse, whose last race be­fore Lon­don will be a 200 at a Di­a­mond League meet in Monaco on July 21, said it will take a Cana­dian-record run from him to have a shot at gold. His na­tional record is the 19.80 he ran to win sil­ver in Rio.

Rod­ney’s time, mean­while, would have qual­i­fied him for next month’s world cham­pi­onships in Lon­don, but the wind was an il­le­gal 2.7 me­tres per sec­ond. Any­thing over 2.0 is il­le­gal. What’s worse, he missed the stan­dard in the pre­vi­ous day’s semis by 0.01.

“I’m a lit­tle bit gut­ted,” Rod­ney said. “I have no con­trol over na­ture. (On Satur­day) I eased up a lit­tle bit too much at the line ... But that’s how it goes.”

Crys­tal Emmanuel of Toronto ran an im­pres­sive 22.55 to win the women’s 200. Her time would have bro­ken the Cana­dian record of 22.62 set by Marita Payne-Wig­gins — mom of bas­ket­ball star An­drew Wig­gins — in 1983.

But the wind was an il­le­gal 2.8 for her race.

Emmanuel won Fri­day night’s 100, win­ning both sprints for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year. Her con­sis­tency, she said, has come from a psy­cho­log­i­cal shift.

“Now I come out pos­i­tive, con­fi­dent, know­ing I can ex­e­cute Point A to B and still be amaz­ing.”

CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Andre De Grasse: fan favourite.

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