Andre De Grasse’s biggest supporters held a news conference Wednesday afternoon celebrating his golden victory at the Tokyo Olympics.
The sprinter’s mother, Beverley De Grasse, along with his coach Tony Sharpe and Helen Manning, a representative from Athletics Canada, spoke to media in front of a home in Pickering.
“We were smiling with each other, one of the reporters in Tokyo called me and I was able to talk to him... we just smiled...I can’t believe you did it. He was so excited, so happy. ‘I finally did it, I finally did it, Mom,’” Beverley De Grasse said.
His mother said that he’s always been a calm and confident athlete. She knew he would win gold, but also felt that there was a stronger force supporting him despite not being able to attend.
“He has a family now of his own, he has kids. It’s kept him grounded. He’s not just doing this for himself. He’s doing this for his family, his kids so they can look to him and he can be a role model to them,” she added.
Reflecting on her son’s first track meet, Beverley never knew her son would become a gold medal Olympian. In fact, it was more about getting a day off.
“I never thought this would be happening today, being in the Olympics or anything like that. I just know he wanted (to) skip school and have fun with his friends,” she told reporters. "I really never expected anything like this. Even when I spoke to (his coach) Tony Sharpe (in high school), he's telling me all this talent he sees in my son and I’m like ‘What is he talking about?’”
De Grasse’s coach recalls the first time he saw the Olympian in high school. “It’s a god-given gift he was born with. I’ve been in the game a long time and what Andre was able to accomplish in the first year of formal training... it just doesn't happen,” he said. “To come along and break records early you knew the guy was going to be special.”
Beyond his athletic prowess, Sharpe also talked about his ability to inspire young talent.
“Andre is the ultimate role model. Kind, respectful, all the things you look for in a young man. and a lot of my guys are inspired and look up to him. More so with this, I hope people won’t wait four years to care about track and field again. I’m hoping this will inspire some young athletes to say ‘I can run, let me give it a try,’” Sharpe said.
Sharpe and Beverley also both agree that this isn’t the end for the sprinter. “I think he should have at least two more Olympics in him, hopefully,” De Grasse’s mother said, adding that there’s one more gold medal he still hasn’t gotten yet. “I think he’d work toward that 100 metre gold medal. I know that’s his favourite. I’m pretty sure he’ll get that before the end of his career.”
With COVID-19 pandemic still raging on, one of the most difficult things for Beverley was being away from her son. “Every time I here there’s a new case... it’d make me cringe. That was the most difficult thing for me, not being there.”
But soon enough, celebrations with loved ones are in order. When asked about future plans to celebrate when he returns, Beverley De Grasse told reporters, “We’re going to throw a big party. With all the family and friends.”
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti declared Aug. 4 as Andre De Grasse Day in Markham and said in a tweet the city plans to light the gateway sign at Steeles Avenue and Markham Rd gold on Thursday night.
Ivy Mak is a team editor on the Star’s breaking news desk, based in Toronto. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Evelyn Kwong is a Star team editor based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @evystadium