De Grasse ready to take Pan Am sprint spotlight

Wed Jul 22, 2015 12:27am EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - With no Usain Bolt or Justin Gatlin in the field, Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse eased to a leisurely win in his opening heat of the 100 meters at the Pan American Games on Tuesday.

Trinidad and Tobago's Kesston Bledman and Americans Remontay McClain and BeeJay Lee all slipped under 10 seconds in their heats but it was De Grasse getting all the attention despite running 10.06 as the athletics competition got underway.

The 20-year-old emerged this year as Canada's biggest sprinting hope since Donovan Bailey, who won the 100m gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, when he became the first Canadian since 1999 to run under 10 seconds after he clocked 9.97 at the Pac-12 track and field championships two months ago.

He followed that with a wind assisted run of 9.75 seconds at last month's U.S. collegiate championships in Oregon.

"You need to have the big performance when it matters and Andre has proven that," Tony Sharpe, a 1984 Olympic sprinter who is one of Canada's top sprint coaches, told reporters.

"Before, he was kind of in the background but now that's it's on him it's going to be great to see how he responds to that bit of pressure.

"Now you know who Andre De Grasse is, so it's a little different and we'll see how he responds, but I have a feeling that he'll be just fine."

Canada was quick out of the blocks on the opening day of the athletics competition picking up gold medals from Shawnacy Barber in the men's pole vault and Elizabeth Gleadle in the women's javelin.   Continued...

Jul 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; From left Jason Livermore of Jamaica , Daniel Bailey of Antigua and Andre De Grasse of Canada race in a men's athletics 100m preliminary heat during the 2015 Pan Am Games at CIBC Pan Am Athletics Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports