With Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin both ruled out of the men’s 200m at the World Championships in London, Andre De Grasse knows he is the next in the Athletics chain of command to win this event.
Well, the order seems to support this assertion, at least on paper, as De Grasse is the current Olympic Silver medallist, beaten by none other than Bolt who will not be contesting in this particular event in London.
However, if we are to go by the current men’s 200m rankings in 2017, De Grasse might worryingly be looking over his shoulders, seeing that there are as many as seven athletes who have run faster than him this year.
De Grasse showed last year in Rio that the 200m could be his forte when he stormed to a Canadian Record of 19.80s in the semis, progressing further to clinch Silver in 20.02s.
With the huge expectations on him, De Grasse might have to reach the heights of that Canadian Record if he is to lock down the 200m as he is even yet to dip under 20s this year.
It might seem rather unfair to say that he hasn’t done any 19s race this year, with his Season’s Best (SB) of 20.01s making him look like an outsider rather than a major contender, but he would have to go faster than his SB to clinch the 200m title in London.
The seven athletes who have run faster than him posted nine of the fastest times over that distance, with Christopher Belcher and De Grasse both tied for 8th position on the 2017 World list.
Earlier this season, De Grasse said he felt Bolt was retiring because he didn’t want to be beaten. Bolt on his part threw a veiled swipe when he said: “What bothers me the most when athletes are coming up through the ranks and they get to a certain level, they always want to beat me, I don’t know why?”
Add the recent feud that ensued from the Monaco Diamond League where the camps of Bolt and De Grasse downplayed allegations about the latter being ‘booted out of the meet’ over talks that the Jamaican didn’t want to race with the Canadian.
One might wonder if De Grasse is barking at the wrong tree and is fixated on beating Bolt rather than focusing on the likes of Wayde Van Niekerk and Isaac Makwala who have shown that they could be in for a podium placement in the 200m.
The IAAF had the schedule worked out in such a way that quarter-milers like Van Niekerk can have a chance to double in the 200m and 400m. The 400m World Record (WR) holder gave a glimpse of his intent when he raced to a Personal Best (PB) of 19.90s in Potchefstroom, going on to better it in Kingston with a South African Record of 19.84s.
Then there’s Botswana’s Makwala who is the current World Leader with a time of 19.77s, a mark he achieved at the IAAF World Challenge in Madrid, two hours after an exerting 400m race where he also dipped under 44s.
If there’s anything De Grasse would have to his advantage, it is that he competes in the shorter sprints and may require a shorter recovery rate. So will scheduling affect both Makwala and Van Niekerk? This brings us back again to Makwala’s feat in Madrid, which proves that the duo can recover in time for races.
Still, De Grasse remains the favourite going into this event. He has the experience of having run more 200m than the other contenders, a point in case being the Rabat Diamond League where he found a way to wheel past Ameer Webb who came out of the bend before him.
No matter the kind of confidence De Grasse exudes going into the 200m, one thing for sure is that he wouldn’t want Makwala and Van Niekerk coming out of curve before him, because what is uncertain is his ability to catch them.