The Olympic Games date back to 776 B.C. in Olympia, Greece. Ancient Greek mythology has it as a gathering and competition of the best and strongest athletes, as arranged to honour Zeus and Hercules. Fast forward nearly 2,800 years and both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games continue to feature the planet’s greatest athletes in a host of individual and team events every four years.
For the first time since both the first and second World Wars, the International Olympic Committee made the decision to alter the dates of an upcoming Olympic Games. With Tokyo 2020 originally scheduled to begin on July 24 of 2020, the IOC opted to push the Summer Olympic Games back a full calendar year to 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
That change served as a hindrance for some teams and athletes, while others welcomed the additional year of training, practice, growth and dedication. One such athlete who used the delay to his benefit was Canadian sprinter, Andre De Grasse.
The 26-year-old from Scarborough, Ontario just completed his second Summer Olympic Games, and did so in dramatic fashion. After making Canadian history back at Rio 2016 by picking up medals in all three of his events (second in 200-metre, third in 100-metre, third in 4X100-metre relay), Canada’s fastest man went on to another three podiums, finishing top-three in each of his events at this year’s showing.
De Grasse once again earned bronze in the 100-metre and 4X100-metre relay, before taking home his very first Summer Olympic Games gold medal in the 200-metre event, clocking a Canadian record time of 19.62 seconds. He did so behind his mirrored gold Oakley sunglasses and underneath a cross necklace hanging just over his heart. De Grasse’s immediate celebration post-race saw the 5-foot-10, 158-pound speedster drop down onto one knee in prayer, before looking skyward and pointing a finger to the heavens.
“Thank you to everyone who’s joined me on this rollercoaster ride,” De Grasse posted on his Instagram page from Tokyo. “My coaching staff, sponsors, my family and friends, Canada and most importantly GOD. I could not have done this without each and every one of you behind me.”
De Grasse, who is married to 100-metre women’s hurdles world champion Nia Ali, said that his time had come to keep up with the pace set by his better half.
“I was so happy for Nia when she won the World Championships in Doha, the first to bring home a gold medal,” De Grasse said when asked about his family. “It really motivated me and inspired me to see how hard she works. I’ve got to go out and do this for you and show I can bring a gold medal home too. I can’t wait to go home.”
Although many miles apart, De Grasse and Ali were able to connect immediately post-race, with the couple’s two young children also gaining access to a video feed sent live to Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. Ali, also deep-rooted in her Christian faith posted the following to Instagram shortly after De Grasse’s victory:
“God is so good!” she wrote. “You prayed for it, you worked for it, you were patient and determined to see through God’s plan for you. Watching you work uncomfortably hard to achieve this feat is only a small part of what makes you great. Your selflessness while going through adversity is so admirable. You never wear your struggles on your sleeve. You always just keep your head down, continue to push yourself to be your best self and wait for your moment. Well, this is your moment; you are living your moment you imagined time and time again.”
De Grasse – who credits his Christian upbringing to his mother Beverly (who was also a track star back in her native Trinidad and Tobago) and her insistence on his enrollment at three different Catholic schools through his formative childhood years – also carries a number of permanent reminders of his faith in the form of tattoos on his left shoulder, upper and lower arm. One such tattoo, the wording “God’s gift”, which is written on his lower left triceps, has clearly been a focal point in both his everyday life and training.
“It’s just God-given, man,” De Grasse’s long-time coach Tony Sharpe said with emotion at a press conference following the race. “It is a God-given gift that he was born with. You knew that guy was going to be special… I walked into this high school track meet and saw this kid, and the rest is history.”
Right now, the only thing that is history is the 2021 Summer Olympic Games. Coming off a second successful Olympic showing, De Grasse has already shifted his focus to Paris 2024. But staying grounded in his faith will always remain a daily priority.
“I pray every day,” De Grasse said in Kimberley Bozak and Rita Field-Marsham’s 2017 publication, Glorious & Free, The Canadians. “When I wake up, when I go to sleep, every time I eat meals.”
In following that lifestyle, the 26-year-old definitely shouldn’t have any difficulty staying within his lane.