Leave it to Steve Simmons of The Toronto Sun to bring a needed reality check to the Usain Bolt-Andre De Grasse sprinting 'rivalry'.
Simmons, one of the nicest guys you'll meet in journalism though that actually rarely comes off in his highly-opinionated work (and the two can be exclusive), was on TSN post-race last night with Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star and Mark Masters of TSN.
Simmons essentially called BS on the notion that De Grasse was a threat to Bolt in the Rio sprints, and, while not likely a popular take, good for him for doing so. That does not take away in any measure from De Grasse's bronze (100 metres) and silver (200) medals but as Simmons said it was only 'dreamers' who thought De Grasse - or anyone - posed any real threat to Bolt's brilliance. Going into the Olympic Games Bolt was thought to be vulnerable given some recent injury issues but it was apparent in the 100m heats that he was at or at least near full strength, meaning, essentially, that everyone was running for second place.
But there's been a rose-colored glasses tinge to the Olympic sprints due to what started as cute but turned nauseating (and I confess I have a short attention span), the so-called 'bromance' between Bolt and De Grasse. By the end of it I was ready to hurl. Sure, De Grasse is a great runner and stands to be in future and is quite likely the heir apparent, certainly based on current evidence. But it was pretty evident Bolt dominated the field in both his individual finals.
Yet we're 10 metres from the finish of the 200, Bolt is ahead by three metres perhaps, and the CBC is saying De Grasse 'is still within striking distance.' Uh, no. The 200 was a blowout for Bolt.
The reality is that far too much focus was placed on the 'bromance' 200 semifinal when Bolt to anyone with good vision clearly shut it down - as he did in the last few steps of the 200 final as well. I didn't see that De Grasse 'pushed' Bolt in the semi as so many reported. Who knows but I think Bolt got sick of the whole deal, what to me - and he seems a good kid - was De Grasse getting caught up in this notion that he could beat Bolt in these Games. Good for him, one has to be confident, but clear thinking suggested Bolt was in command throughout. And Bolt did just sort of walk away to bask in his own historical moment when De Grasse approached him after the 200 final. It was like, look, kid, we had our fun, but this was the final, I just made history, get out of my moment. Much of the Canadian media is all 'oh, Bolt acknowledged him, woo".
Embarrassing. As was some of the stereotypical Canadian inferiority complex interviews of Bolt, i.e. you just made history Usain but what do you think of De Grasse? Gag me.
What isn't embarrassing is De Grasse's performance and he has one more to go, in the 4 X 100 m relay Friday night when Bolt, goes for another gold with the Jamaican team and what would be an unprecedented nine golds in three races in three separate Olympics. As for De Grasse, to suggest as some have that he has come out of nowhere, or is the 'Olympic upstart' as CBC referred to him, is to actually disrespect what he had already accomplished coming into the Games. He wasn't a 'nobody' to anyone with even the slightest acquaintance with sport. This is a Pac-12 and NCAA champion, the Pan Am Games champion and world championship bronze medalist. Who knows, if Bolt does stick around for the 2017 world championships as he has stated, perhaps De Grasse, a year wiser and likely faster, might finally beat the aging, in athletic terms, Bolt.
But as even De Grasse said in post-200m race interviews, while he is the apparent 'next one' en route to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, four years is a long time, much can happen, other as yet unforeseen competitors will likely emerge as people like Bolt and American Justin Gatlin fade away. And De Grasse now be the hunted, not so much under the radar as he may have been to date. So time, and how he deals with all of this, will tell though obviously he appears on the right path.
But to suggest that Rio 2016 was anything other than Usain Bolt's time, one last time, is, as Simmons said, 'dreaming.'