Andre de Grasse said he had “shocked the world” after storming to victory in the Olympic 200 metres final yesterday as the United States’ 17-year sprinting gold medal drought continued. Canadian star de Grasse completed a long road back from injury and illness to win gold in 19.62sec, with the USA’s Kenny Bednarek taking silver in 19.68sec and world 200m champion Noah Lyles the bronze in 19.74sec.
The victory came five years after de Grasse announced his arrival among the elite of international sprinting with a silver medal in the 200m behind Usain Bolt at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. “I want everyone to know that I shocked the world,” said de Grasse, who also took silver in the 200m behind Lyles at the 2019 world championships.
De Grasse’s 200m victory in Tokyo and the 100m triumph of Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs mean that the US remains without a victory in the individual Olympic men’s short sprints since 2004. By the time of the next Olympics in Paris it will be 20 years since Justin Gatlin and Shawn Crawford completed a 100-200 US double at the Athens Games.
Lyles had been strongly tipped to end that losing streak in Tokyo, but was unable to respond as de Grasse controlled yesterday’s final from start to finish. “I know everyone was saying that the Americans were going to win,” de Grasse said. “But this was my moment, I knew I had it in me, and I just wanted to come out here and get the job done.”
De Grasse said he had almost given up hope of returning to top-level sprinting during difficult seasons in 2017 and 2018 when he was hampered by a string of injuries and illness. “I’ve been training hard, I’ve been battling adversity going through my injuries,” de Grasse said. “But my sponsors, my family, my friends never gave up on me, even when sometimes I gave up on myself. They said ‘You’ve got more in the tank, don’t let the media and pressure get to you, get out there and be yourself.’”
“2017 was tough for me. I was in London watching the world championships and I felt I could have been there and felt like I could have won the gold medal there. I was in great shape. To come back in 2018 and re-injure myself, the same hamstring, was really devastating, but I kept with the rehab...I had to keep going, keep pushing.”
Starting in lane six in yesterday’s final, de Grasse made a smooth start and led coming into the straight to control the race, holding off the challenge of Bednarek and Lyles over the final 50 metres. American 17-year-old Erriyon Knighton finished just outside the medals in fourth in a time of 19.93sec.
“He’s going to be dangerous in the future,” silver medallist Bednarek said of Knighton. “17 years old and being able to run this fast. He’s definitely going to be a monster in the future.”
Meanwhile bronze medallist Lyles, who had spoken of his battles with depression before the Olympics, said a long season had finally caught up with him. “Mentally and physically it’s been a very long season, coming off anti-depressants, going on anti-depressants,” he said.
“It’s nice to have the medal. I wanted the gold, but I have no regrets on that. Everyone who’s up here is very fast, I’m honoured.”
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