Andre De Grasse’s bid to win gold at the Olympic Games in Tokyo is being backed by two of the greatest sprinters in Canadian history.
The 1996 Atlanta Games restored the country’s pride in its athletes, following Ben Johnson’s disqualification for doping eight years earlier.
Donovan Bailey was at the forefront of Canada’s glory bid in Atlanta, winning gold in the 100 metres and 4 x 100m relay.
One of Bailey’s teammates in the latter event was Bruny Surin, and the pair have been sharing their expertise with De Grasse in the run-up to this summer’s Games.
During a recent in-depth interview with Betway, the Canadian star confirmed that he regularly speaks with the former Canadian sprint stars.
“Donovan messages me, Bruny Surin messages me all the time, so it’s pretty awesome that the people before who have done it are rooting for me,” he said.
“I met Donovan back in 2015 when I won the Pan American Games in Toronto. And then I had a little event in 2016, I invited him and he came out.
“It was pretty cool, pretty awesome to talk to him and hear stories about back when he was running.
“I hear it in the media all the time, him rooting for me and telling people that I’m going to do great things. So that really inspires me and keeps me focused.”
Johnson’s fall from grace in 1988 cast a massive shadow over Canadian sport, and it took the country a long time to recover.
Although Johnson wasn’t the first athlete to test positive for performance-enhancing substances, the hype around his event magnified his misdemeanours.
His disqualification brought shame on a country that prided itself on fair play in sports, but ultimately shone a light on much wider issues.
Canada’s success in 1996 restored national pride, and De Grasse will compete in Tokyo under huge pressure to live up to that legacy.
The 26-year-old, who currently resides in the United States, says that the support he receives when he returns to his homeland inspires him.
“People say: ‘What does it feel like to have the weight of the country your shoulders?’,” he added.
“It just feels awesome that people would say that because I never realise how many kids and people I inspire back home.
“You never really realise that until you go to an event or show up at a kid’s school and you’re like: ‘Oh, wow, all these people are inspired by my performances and what I’ve done for the country.’
“I know my country put that pressure on me. They always believed that I could do it, people back home.”
De Grasse’s efforts at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro undoubtedly ramped up expectations, particularly his run in the semi-finals of the 200m.
He gave Usain Bolt an almighty scare in that race before finishing second behind the legendary Jamaican in the final.
De Grasse is sure he can mix it with the best and believes he has the ability to secure at least one gold medal this summer.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished so much in my sport or in life,” he said. “I try to be optimistic and be positive and tell myself: ‘Hey, just do your best’ – that’s all I can really do.”