Andre De Grasse Hits Ottawa for Canadian Track Championships

From the speakers around the track, the stadium filled with the thunderous voice of the announcer. He informed the crowd that this weekend’s event welcomed more main stream media stations than ever before.

From July 3 to 9, the city of Ottawa played host to the 2017 Canadian Track and Field Championships. The athletic spectacle represented another big event in a series of attractions this year for Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations. 

It was a star-studded affair, featuring the top Canadian athletes from a multitude of sports, but no athlete garnered as much media attention as sprinter Andre De Grasse. The 22-year-old was the poster boy for the weekend.

De Grasse busted on the scene last summer at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games, where he became the first Canadian sprinter to win three medals in a single Olympics (two bronze and a silver). Since then, he has become a front runner in the Canadian track and field world.

Between the crowded, bustling media tent, and the at-capacity crowd huddling under umbrellas at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility in Ottawa, it was clear that De Grasse has sparked a wave of public interest in track sports. 

To go along with his three Olympic medals, De Grasse came into the weekend having already set the Canadian 200 metre record last fall with a time of 19.8 seconds.

Earlier this year at the Bauhaus-Galan Diamond League competition in Stockholm, Sweden, he notched a world-class result in the 100 metres with a time of 9.69 seconds. With his time adjusted to meet allowable tailwind speeds, the result calculates to 9.88 seconds. That time is just 0.04 seconds off of the Canadian record of 9.84, set by the last historic Canadian name in sprinting: Donovan Bailey.

Bailey was not present for the Canadian Track and Field Championships, but another track legend was. Former American world-champion Carl Lewis soaked in the weekend’s festivities.

To the surprise of some in the crowd, Lewis was in attendance at the 100 metre event in Ottawa on July 7, which may be a testament to just how big of an impact De Grasse’s success has had in the track and field world. 

Just this March, the federal government committed to an 18 per cent increase in funding for Sport Canada, which seeks to get people involved in, and to excel in sports.

Aside from the spectacle that was De Grasse, athletes from the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club also received big applause as they were announced. 

De Grasse won the weekend’s 100 and 200 metre gold medals, finishing with times of 10.11 and 19.96 seconds respectively. Two more medals have now been added to his quickly growing collection, en route to the 2020 Olympic Games.

“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 said in an interview with the CBC.

In other news, Toronto’s own Crystal Emmanuel won both the women’s 100 and 200 metre gold medals. Both Emmanuel and De Grasse had already qualified for this year’s world championships even before stepping on the track for the Canadian competition.

This year’s championships featured a number of notable Canadian athletes, including 400m runner Sage Watson, pole vaulter Shawn Barber, 800m runner Melissa Bishop.

Those hoping to see high jumper Derek Drouin compete were unable to, as the current Olympic gold medal holder pulled out of the competition on July 6 due to an ankle injury.

Those who missed out on this year’s Canadian Track and Field Championships can look forward to next summer, when the competition will return to Ottawa.

Photos by Troy Curtis