Andre De Grasse eyes 5th individual podium finish of 2019 in Rabat

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A healthy Andre De Grasse seems to have regained the confidence and swagger that led to his three-medal performance at the 2016 Olympics.

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The Markham, Ont., runner, who has been plagued by a strained right hamstring each of the past two years, was explosive at the Florida Relays in March and boasts a combined four podium finishes in the 100 and 200 metres in 2019 entering Sunday’s Diamond League meeting in Rabat, Morocco (CBCSports.ca, 2 p.m. ET).

“He definitely seems in race shape,” says Donovan Bailey, the 1996 Olympic 100 champion-turned CBC Sports analyst. “He has to have that confidence because he has to get back in the conversation [as one of the world’s top sprinters] and he absolutely is not in the conversation right now.

“Maybe that’s a good thing because people will leave him alone. I used to like to get away, run some smaller competitions and work on things, and I think that’s what he’s doing.”

The early signs from the 24-year-old De Grasse have been encouraging. In the span of a month, De Grasse ran 20.20 seconds at the Grenada Invitational and 20.21 in his Diamond League season debut at Shanghai. He turned his attention to the 100 in late May, clocking 10.09 and 10.01 in China and Taiwan, respectively.

WATCH | De Grasse places 2nd in his Diamond League season debut:

Aaron Brown ran a 20.07 to edge teammate Andre De Grasse in a showdown between Canada’s two top sprinters. 1:25

De Grasse’s 2018 season was cut short at the Canadian championships in early July when he suffered a Grade 1 strain in the biceps femoris — one of the hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh — after cramping up 50 metres from the finish line in a 200 semifinal at Terry Fox Stadium in Ottawa.

Eleven months earlier, De Grasse withdrew from the world championships in London with a more serious Grade 2 hamstring strain sustained during a training run.

Spending the past year with daughter Yuri, whom De Grasse and his longtime girlfriend Nia Ali welcomed into the world on June 22, 2018, no doubt relieved a lot of the sprinter’s pain and served as motivation to return to the track under new coach Rana Reider.

Strong field

“It’s important he get the rust off after not competing at the highest level the past two years,” Bailey says of De Grasse, who ran 20.03 in Rabat two years ago to set the meet record.

In Sunday’s 200 at 2:54 p.m., De Grasse should be tested by reigning world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey, who clocked a winning time of 19.99 at the season-opening Diamond League in Doha, Qatar, but hasn’t run under 20 seconds in his last three races.

WATCH | Donovan Bailey on the responsibility of being the world’s fastest man:

CBC Sports’ track analyst discusses what sets it apart from other countries and the responsibility that comes with being the world’s fastest man. 1:51

South Africa’s Clarence Munyai and Alex Quinonez of Ecuador are others to watch at the International Mohammed VI track and field meet.

Last March, Munyai shattered the South African record with a 19.69 effort — 10th fastest in history — before suffering a Grade 2 tear of his right hamstring a month later at the Commonwealth Games.

South African-record holder Clarence Munyai, who tore his right hamstring at last year’s Commonwealth Games, will carry a season-best time of 20.37 seconds into the men’s 200 metres on Sunday in Rabat. (Matt King/Getty Images/File)

The 21-year-old ran a season-best 20.37 to finish third in Shanghai earlier this season behind Toronto’s Aaron Brown (20.07) and De Grasse (20.21).

“Clarence is an absolute phenomenal talent, but where is he at?” asks Bailey. “Coming from 19.69 to 20.37 is a long way to go. He’s obviously dangerous but the [top priority] isn’t the competition but his self-confidence to know he can push out of the blocks, run the corner and hit top speed off the corner.”

Quinonez, 29, has five podium finishes in six races this season in the 200. He was third at the Diamond League’s Golden Gala on June 6 in Rome, where he finished one spot ahead of Guliyev, who had beat Quinonez in Doha.

“With Alex and Clarence, these are not household names but to run the times they have, they’ve had very good training and immense technical skills,” Bailey says.

She’s in good shape and ready to fly.

— Pole vault coach Doug Wood on Canadian-record holder Alysha Newman

In other events, Canada’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford will race the women’s 1,500 in Rabat. The London, Ont.-born runner, now living in Scotland, shaved more than two seconds off her personal-best with her 4:01.28 fifth-place effort in Rome that was 1.01 seconds shy of the Canadian record of 4:00.27 by Lynn Kanuka (nee Williams) from 1985.

WATCH | Gabriela DeBues-Stafford runs a personal-best 1,500m in Rome:

The Canadian held the lead as the Diamond League race entered its final straightaway, before losing the lead and finishing fourth. 2:05
DeBues-Stafford, whose time fell within the world championship and 2020 Olympic qualifying standards, had entered the Golden Gala having set three Canadian records in as many races in 2019.

Pole vaulter Alysha Newman, who also hails from London, competes in Morocco a week after breaking her Canadian outdoor mark of 4.75 metres with a clearance of 4.76 at the Speed River Inferno meet in Guelph, Ont.

Newman, 24, also broke her own national indoor record on Feb. 2, reaching 4.71 en route to a tie for first place at an IAAF indoor meet in Karlsruhe, Germany.

“She’s in good shape and ready to fly,” says Newman’s coach, Doug Wood. Newman’s 2018 campaign ended last May after she partially tore her patellar tendon, which attaches the bottom of the kneecap to the top of the shinbone.

Diamond League on CBC Sports

CBC Sports is providing live streaming coverage of all 14 Diamond League meets this season at CBCSports.ca and via the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices. TV coverage will be featured as part of the network’s Road To The Olympic Games weekend broadcasts throughout the season.

The following is a list of upcoming Diamond League meets, all times ET:

  • Rabat (Sunday, 2–4 p.m.)
  • Eugene (June 30, 4–6 p.m.)
  • Lausanne (July 5, 2–4 p.m.)
  • Monaco (July 12, 2–4 p.m.)
  • London, England (July 20 and 21, 9–11 a.m.)
  • Birmingham, England (Aug. 18, 9–11 a.m.)
  • Paris (Aug. 24, 2–4 p.m.)
  • Zurich (Aug. 29, 2–4 p.m.)
  • Brussels (Sept. 7, 2–4 p.m.)

https://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/summer/trackandfield/de-grasse-diamond-league-rabat-preview-1.5176111?cmp=rss