Andre de Grasse Wins Men’s 100m Gold Medal at Pan Am Games

It is the marquee event of any summer games, and with Toronto native Andre de Grasse winning the Men’s 100m gold medal at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, a capacity crowd at York University went home happy.

De Grasse got off to a slow start, but picked things up in the middle, and finished strong to run a 10.05 to take the victory on a track that comes just a few blocks from the York University track club, where a lanky teenager running in basketball shorts was discovered as a prodigious talent just three years ago.

Ramon Gittens of the Barbados finished with a time of 10.07. Antoine Adams of Saint Kitts and Nevis took the bronze with a time of 10.09.

“It was getting pretty tight,” said De Grasse discussing the extremely close finish. “I saw Ramon Gittens and I saw he was moving and I wasn’t getting to my next gear that I usually get, so I tried to lean. When I saw the poster was on me, I was like ‘ok, I think I won’.”

It was the first major international meet for De Grasse, the star who burst onto the scene winning the NCAA 100m and 200m championships this season at the University of Southern California.

“Getting to compete is a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially at home in front of fans and family and friends,” De Grasse said after his race. “This is one of the greatest moments of my life.”

Ever since DeGrasse showed his strength in college this season, Canadian coaches have been focused on helping the new star to reach his potential, with his peak planned not for the Pan Am Games, but for the Track and Field World Championships in August. With that, and the pressure of competing in the Pan Ams at home, the coaches have tried to keep De Grasse grounded.

“I think we had a pretty good plan in place,” Canada Athletics head coach Peter Eriksson said. “We haven’t been very accommodating to media because we wanted him to focus on the final and we’ll do the same in the other races too. It’s just for him to keep his feet on the ground. There’s a lot of pressure being at home.”

“He won,” said Eriksson. “I don’t care what the time was. The time is irrelevant. He came here to win and he did that.”

“Our goal this whole season has been the world championships,” Eriksson added. “This is a stepping stone. Great things might happen.”

One gets the sense that the best is still to come for De Grasse. He is just starting in sprinting, just starting to train in the heavy weight lifting that will take him to the next level. However, even without the traditional sculpted, bulging, sprinters body, the youngster is a natural.

“He’s something special,” said Caryl Smith Gilbert, De Grasse’s personal sprint coach at the University of Southern California. “I don’t know if I’ll ever see anything like him again. He’s that good. He can do things naturally I can’t coach… He can do things naturally that I don’t have to coach. Somebody asked me earlier what it is about him. You only have to teach him something once or twice, and he’ll catch on to it.”

His starts also need some work, and he did not look particularly good out of the gate in either the 100m semi-final or final, but he overcame those poor starts and won anyways.

“I liked his finish, I didn’t like the start though” added Smith Gilbert.

One only has to imagine how good this 20-year-old can be after some time in the weight room, and some coaching on his start. Donovan Bailey had mentionned earlier in the day that he expects that De Grasse will soon break the Canadian Record of 9.84 seconds, a mark that Bailey has held since a hot August night in Atlanta 19 years ago, when he won Olympic gold. Bailey also believes that De Grasse will soon achieve even more in the sport than he did, and that the youngster is a natural.

De Grasse isn’t done at these games, as he will be competing in the 200m, as well as anchoring Team Canada in the 4x100m relay.

Earlier in the night, Canada’s Melissa Bishop won gold in the women’s 800m clocking in with a time of one minute 59.62 seconds.

“I knew the crowd was going to be loud no matter what, so I was just trying to put myself in a good position to be able to run in and let the crowd do its work, and let the training come through,” Bishop said. “I’m really happy it worked out. It’s so nice to win a gold medal at home.”

Toronto’s Sarah Wells added a silver in the women’s 400 hurdles.

Main Photo by Kevin Gamble/Last Word on Sports, Inc.; All Rights Reserved.