De Grasse grows into the Olympic champion Bolt predicted

Tokyo (AFP) –


Andre de Grasse's relations with Usain Bolt went from smiles to accusations of disrespect a few days later but on Wednesday the Canadian succeeded him as Olympic 200 metres champion.

De Grasse may sport wraparound dark glasses but his generally soft-spoken approach is the very opposite to the trash-talking sprinters of a previous age.

The Canadian's offence in Bolt's eyes was to reveal he had run as fast as he could in their 2016 Olympic 200 metres semi-final in a bid to tire out the legendary Jamaican before the final.

The two men were captured in an iconic image of the Games, smiling at each other as they approached the finishing line with Bolt wagging his finger at the Canadian and later accusing him of using too much energy with the final still to come.

The plan failed to work as Bolt easily won in Rio with De Grasse taking the silver medal -- his best result until Wednesday's golden moment in Tokyo's Olympic Stadium.

A year later the experience still rankled as the Jamaican approached retirement and was asked again who he would endorse as his successor.

Andre De Grasse's audacious grin at Usain Bolt during the Rio Olympics became one of the picture of that Games
Andre De Grasse's audacious grin at Usain Bolt during the Rio Olympics became one of the picture of that Games FRANCK FIFE AFP/File

"I am not going to go down that road," said Bolt. "The last guy I said was going to be great disrespected me.

"So I'm not going to say who's going to be great."

De Grasse's coach at the time, Stuart McMillan, said Bolt had blown the incident out of proportion.

"Andre definitely meant no disrespect by that, but I think Bolt maybe took it a little bit differently and since then the relationship has been slightly different," he said in 2017.

Bolt was not the only one to have spotted his potential.

Puma, the same shoe supplier as Bolt, signed up de Grasse in December 2015 to the largest initial shoe contract in track and field history.

Aged just 21 he inked a multi-year deal worth US$11.25 million -- his agents claimed with bonuses it could rise to as much as US$30 million.

- 'A great dad' -

However, neither money nor medals have changed De Grasse -- it has been becoming a father.

His partner, American 100 metres hurdler Nia Ali, gave birth to baby girl Yuri in June 2018.

"You cherish a lot more things than usual, right?" he told Sharp Magazine last month.

"Just being able to have a bad day at the office or at work or on the track, you’re always coming home to your kid with a smile on their face and it just puts joy and laughter in your face.

"It's just amazing to have that company. Obviously, there are other things that come into play: you become more mature, you become more responsible."

Ali says de Grasse has taken to fatherhood with great enthusiasm despite the occasional blip.

He took Yuri swimming last year and posted the images on social media -- her swimsuit was on back to front.

"He's a great dad," Ali told Canadian media in July. "He's always putting her clothes on backwards.

"I think (being a dad) helps his mind to separate things when there is a lot going on, or there is pressure to deliver in track."

Ali has given birth to a boy -- whose name has not been divulged -- since Yuri's arrival her son from a previous relationship also lives with them in Florida.

Children have been a constant in de Grasse's life.

He is a devout Roman Catholic thanks to his parents and has set up a foundation with the goal to raise money for youth mental health charities.

He also brought out a children's book last month titled "Race With Me".

"It's a joy for me," he says of his charity work. "It makes me feel good at the end of the day."