De Grasse has company for top billing at Pan Am

Wed Jul 8, 2015 12:27pm EDT
 
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(Reuters) - A young Canadian sprinter who once thought basketball was his game, the world's best indoor pole vaulter and a Cuban jumper with world record ambitions headline a Pan American Games athletics competition.

Andre De Grasse, little known in the sprint world of Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin until June, is making plans to break a two-decade-old Canadian speed drought in the July 10-26 hemispheric games in a big way.

De Grasse, at age 20, hopes to become Canada's first men's 100 meters winner since Glenroy Gilbert in 1995.

The Games' 200m title as well as national records in both sprints also appear within reach.

"That's on my mind," De Grasse said. He holds the Canadian 200m record of 20.03 seconds but the 100m mark of 9.84 seconds is an old one, dating back to the 1990s when Donovan Bailey and Bruny Surin were Canada's best.

De Grasse has been faster than both, cruising glittering 9.75 and 19.58 seconds at the U.S. collegiate championships, but the marks were wind-assisted.

With Bolt on the mend from a leg injury and Gatlin and a host of American and Caribbean sprinters chasing fame in Europe, De Grasse should have a shot at both golds, if not the records. He showed his shape by sprinting a lifetime best 9.95 seconds in the 100m at last week's national championships.

American pole vaulter Jenn Suhr already has gold and a world record.

The New Yorker soared to the London Olympic title in 2012 and took away Russian pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva's all-time indoor best the next year.   Continued...

 
Workmen add the finishing touches to an illuminated sign ahead of the 2015 Pan Am Games, in front of city hall in Toronto, Canada, July 7, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Helgren