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Nine months after hamstring injury, De Grasse makes return at Drake Relays


TORONTO — It's been nine long months since Andre De Grasse folded his sinewy frame into the starting blocks of a race.

The 23-year-old from Markham, Ont., finally makes his competitive return Saturday when he runs the 100 metres at the Drake Relays, his first race since a Grade 2 hamstring strain forced him out of the world track and field championships, and erased his hopes of racing Usain Bolt one last time.

De Grasse is "jumping into the fire a little bit," choosing Drake as his debut. He's the headliner of a strong field of six other sub-10-second sprinters, including U.S. Olympian Mike Rodgers.

"it's going to be interesting for me, usually I start off the season pretty slow, but this meet I thought was pretty special to go to because they haven't had a 100 metres I think in 13 years," De Grasse said. "I thought it would be a great early-season start for me because I wanted to get a meet in April before I got to the Diamond League circuit."

His competitive calendar only ramps up after this weekend. He'll race the 200 at the Doha Diamond League meet on May 4, then the 100 at the Shanghai Diamond League on May 12. Also on his radar is the NACAC championships Aug. 10-12 in Toronto, where he'd like to "win gold back home. That would be great for me, and bring back memories of the Pan Am Games."

He'll line up against American Christian Coleman, who broke the world indoor 60-metre record twice this season, at the Diamond League event July 21-22 in London.  

De Grasse seemed on the brink of a strong world championships last summer in London. He was undefeated in the 100 and 200 in the four Diamond League meets leading up to worlds, and ran a sizzling — although wind-aided — 9.69 seconds in the 100 metres in Stockholm.

Instead, the triple Olympic medallist strained his hamstring doing a relatively light workout a couple of days before the world championships opened.

With no Olympics or worlds this season, De Grasse was able to be patient in his return. He wasn't back on the track until November. 

"It gave me a little bit more time to recover, not push myself as hard with the hamstring injury I had in August, so I had some time to ease back into training and not push myself too hard too early," he said. "But as of right now I've been fortunate that things have gone well these past couple of months, continue to keep doing the right thing, recovering, nutrition, just making sure I take care of my body in the right way so it doesn't happen again."

De Grasse regretfully withdrew from Canada's team for last month's Commonwealth Games.

"A couple of my teammates won gold and silver there, so they did really well," De Grasse said. "And I heard it was great to be in Australia, it was fun. But it was a little bit early for me, I just wasn't in shape to run three rounds. I thought I would be, but things change and now I've got to move forward and get ready for the Diamond League circuit." 

De Grasse's goals this season include winning an overall Diamond League title, and breaking the Canadian 100-metre record — finally — of 9.84 co-held by Donovan Bailey (1996) and Bruny Surin ('99). His fastest time (with a legal wind) is the 9.91 he ran in winning bronze at the Rio Olympics. De Grasse already holds the Canadian 200 record.

"Yeah definitely, 9.84, it's been on my radar for awhile," De Grasse said. "But I'm just going to let that come to me, take one race at a time, and we'll see what I can do in the next couple of meets, and I'll be able to know where I'm at, and if I can do it."

With no global championships this summer, De Grasse was able to have a little fun over the winter. A promising basketball player in high school — he once was City TV's athlete of the week for basketball — De Grasse played on Team Clippers in the celebrity game during NBA all-star weekend in Los Angeles, scoring 17 points and grabbing six rebounds.

"Brought back some old memories of playing basketball, I've still kind of got it," he laughed. "I would definitely probably do it again, but not next year or 2020 (because of the world championships and Olympics)."

He's paying close attention to the Raptors' playoff run, and hopes to be at the Air Canada Centre for a second or third-round playoff game, should the Raptors advance that far.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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