16 of ’16: Canadian sprinting gains international attention
With the year coming to a close, Olympic.ca will look back at 16 of the most memorable Team Canada stories of 2016. As a new “16 of ‘16” story is revealed daily, you can find the entire series here.
“We want to put Canadian sprinting on the map.”
At the time De Grasse had just officially become a professional athlete, following his 100m and 200m gold at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. Despite only taking sprinting seriously five years prior, the Canadian headed into Rio 2016 with big goals.
“It would be an honour to represent Canada. To go out there and bring back three medals,” De Grasse told Olympic.ca in February.
And that’s exactly what he did.
De Grasse’s first medal came in the sport’s marquee event, the men’s 100m final. Lined up next to world class sprinters, the Canadian earned his first Olympic medal finishing third behind Jamaican sprinting legend Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin from the United States.
After winning the nation’s first 100m medal since Donovan Bailey’s at Atlanta 1996, De Grasse gave Canada its first Olympic double podium in the 100m and 200m since Percy Williams did it at Amsterdam 1928. Climbing a step higher in the 200m, De Grasse finished behind Bolt and ahead of Christopher Lemaitre of France to win silver.
With two medals down, the 21-year-old was one away from reaching his goal, and fortunately for De Grasse he wasn’t the only Canadian with big Olympic dreams.
One of the greatest parts about the rise of Canadian sprinting in 2016, was its depth. In addition to De Grasse, Canada had a pool of talented sprinters in Rio.
London 2012 Olympian Aaron Brown became the fourth Canadian to dip below the exclusive 10-second mark two months before the Games. While Brendon Rodney showed his readiness for Rio at Athletics Canada’s Olympic trials, where he won the 200m breaking 20s for first time, beating both De Grasse and Brown in the process.
Brown and Rodney teamed up with Akeem Haynes and Bolade Ajomale at Rio 2016, to qualify for the 4x100m final. In an extremely close final where De Grasse replaced Ajomale, the Canadians crossed the line in fourth just outside of an Olympic medal.
Or so they thought.
After officials’ reviews, the United States was disqualified for violating baton exchange rules and Canada was upgraded to bronze for its third-ever Olympic medal in the event. The crew also took down the national record, set when Canada became the 4x100m Olympic champion at Atlanta 1996.
After nearly two decades of waiting, the young squad of 20 something year olds put Canada back among the best sprinting nations in the world.
Next up, the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London.