De Grasse ends Canada's two-day medal drought in Tokyo in electrifying fashion

TOKYO — After two days without any medals at the Tokyo Olympics, Andre De Grasse got Canada back on the board with the greatest run of his stellar career.

The decorated sprinter finally added Olympic gold to his medal collection, crossing the finish line of the men's 200 metres in a Canadian-record time of 19.62 seconds.

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Gold was the one Olympic medal missing from De Grasse's collection. The 26-year-old from Markham, Ont., raced to bronze in the 100 metres on Monday in Tokyo, and captured a silver and two bronze in 2016 in Rio. He's raced to a silver and three bronze over the 2015 and '19 world championships.

"I always felt like I came up for short winning bronze and silver, so it's just good to just have that gold medal. No one can take that away from me," De Grasse said.

De Grasse's victory comes 25 years — plus a week — after Donovan Bailey raced to 100-metre gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Toronto's Aaron Brown finished sixth. Canada had two men in the 200-metre final for the first time since 1928, when Percy Williams took gold and teammate John Fitzpatrick finished fifth.

With the gold, Canada increased its haul in Tokyo to 15 medals (four gold, four silver, seven bronze). That was good for 15th in the medal standings, behind Hungary and ahead of Brazil. Canada's overall medal total was tied for 12th among nations with New Zealand and Brazil.

China had 32 gold medals, seven more than the United States, to lead the medal standings. The U.S. had the most overall medals with 79, nine more than China.

De Grasse's run was the highlight of an impressive day in track and field for Canada, with Damian Warner sitting first after the opening five events of the decathlon and fellow Canadian Pierce LePage in third.

Warner opened his quest for an Olympic decathlon title in assertive fashion, running 10.12 seconds in the 100 metres to tie his decathlon world record in the event.

The 31-year-old from London, Ont., held a commanding lead after three of 10 events, after following up his 100 metres with a good performance in the shot put and a spectacular one in the long jump.

Warner soared 8.24 metres, the longest in Olympic decathlon history, and a distance that would have earned him a bronze medal in the open men's long jump earlier in the week.

Warner's lead diminished after the shot put, in which he finished 11th, and the high jump (eighth). But he rebounded with the third-best time in the 400 metres at 47.48 seconds to enter the halfway point in top spot with 4,722 points.

"I’m in a great position and just got to come tomorrow and execute," Warner said.

Australian Ashley Moloney, who had the best time in the 400, was second with 4,529 points.

LePage, from Whitby, Ont., had 4,529 points. He ran the 100 in 10.43, the third-fastest time on the morning. His 7.65 metres in long jump was second-best, and his throw of 15.31 in shot put was fourth.

To cap the day, he posted the second-best 400 time at 46.92 seconds while running in a fast heat with Warner and Moloney.

Warner is the No. 1-ranked decathlete in the world this year after shattering his Canadian record at the Hypo-Meeting in Gotzis, Austria. His score of 8,995 there was the fourth best in history.

Thursday events are the 110-metre hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and the 1,500 metres.

After the events, Warner had time to check out De Grasse's historic race.

"I had front-row seats," he said. "I think that’s the best seating I’ve ever had for a 100-metre or 200-metre final.

"I’m happy for Andre. He has always performed at his best at world championships and Olympics, there’s a reason why he gets paid the big bucks. He went out there today and he performed."

Canadians also had a strong showing in sprint canoe on Wednesday.

At Sea Forest Waterway, Canadian canoe sprinter Laurence Vincent-Lapointe roared back from an unwanted two-year hiatus to win first place in her heat and advance to the semifinals of the women's canoe single 200-metre race.

Vincent-Lapointe, a seven-time world champion at the distance, hadn't competed since the spring of 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a positive drug test that almost upended her career. She was cleared in January 2020 when the International Canoe Federation accepted she was the victim of third-party contamination.

The 29-year-old from Trois-Rivières, Que. marked a time of 45.408 seconds at Sea Forest Waterway, which was enough to win her heat and move her straight to the semifinals. Teammate Katie Vincent, of Mississauga, Ont., also won her heat in a time of 46.391 and will move on to Thursday's semis.

Vincent-Lapointe has dominated her sport for much of the last decade, but for a time it appeared she wouldn't get the chance to fight for a medal in her sport's first Olympic appearance.

"There’s been moments when I could have thought I wouldn’t make it, but deep down, I always felt I would make it," she said.

"Even three years ago when I learned women’s canoe would be at the Olympics, I said that I would be there. Through everything that happened, I believed I would be here."

In other canoe-kayak competition, Michelle Russell of Fall River, N.S., qualified for the semifinals of the kayak single 500 metres after finishing third in her quarterfinal.

On the men's side, Toronto's Nicholas Matveev qualified for the semifinals after finishing second in his quarterfinal heat for the men's kayak single 200-metre.

In golf, Canadians Alena Sharp and Brooke Henderson both struggled in the first round of the women's tournament. The Canadians are well down the leaderboard after shooting 3-over 74 rounds at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Elsewhere on the track, Geneviève Lalonde of Moncton, N.B., was 11th in the women's 3,000 steeplechase, shaving a couple of tenths of a second off her Canadian record to run 9:22.40.

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford clinched her spot in the women's 1,500 final by finishing third in her semi in a season's best 3:58.28. Her time was the third fastest on the night in the fastest semifinal in Olympic history with five women dipping under the four-minute mark.

Her younger sister Lucia Stafford was sixth in her semifinal (a personal best 4:02.12), and didn't advance.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2021.

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