4 things you can learn about confidence from Andre De Grasse

Note: Originally published at www.cbc.ca on September 1, 2016.

In Rio we learned Andre De Grasse is incredibly fast, and so refreshingly confident that he believed he could beat Usain Bolt.

Yes, that’s right. Usain Bolt, the greatest sprinter who has ever lived.

Where does that kind of conviction come from?

“I came out here to try to win gold,” De Grasse said after his 100-metre heat in Rio. “I’m a competitor, I feel like I have a good chance to take down these guys and I’m not going to wait until 2020, I want to do it now.”

The 21-year-old never sounded cocky; his speed grants him a relaxed belief in himself and his newness to the sport a likeable naivety.

Predicted own success

Four months ahead of the Rio Olympics, De Grasse predicted he would win three medals. “I’m training hard to win three gold medals and I feel like I can accomplish a lot and I’m very young in the sport so I just want to go out there and do my best,” he said in the spring.

He proved you can predict your own success. De Grasse ended up winning three medals in Rio, a silver and two bronze — although no gold.

Canadian star Andre De Grasse stands out as the future of world sprinting. (Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Never waver

De Grasse was never deterred from his winning attitude. Not even by the 100-metre final, where he narrowly won bronze, beaten by both Bolt and American Justin Gatlin.

And even after Bolt sped away from him in the 200 final, beating the Canadian by almost a quarter of a second.

“I definitely had a great opportunity to contend with Usain for a gold medal,” said De Grasse, disappointed but resilient.

Believe in your greatness

De Grasse is an exceptionally gifted sprinter. He’s just plain faster than most people. And this seems to translate into a straightforward belief in himself.

“I knew I had my top-end speed so I relied on that, my heat wasn’t too hard so I just wanted to cruise in,” said De Grasse after his 100 heat. He admitted to a safe (slower) start because he didn’t want to get disqualified, and he knew he could catch up.

Experience can be dangerous

De Grasse is new to high-level sprinting.

He was barely doing track when the last Olympics took place. And he can’t even remember watching.

“I think I watched the 100 metres in London…or I think it was ‘08…but I remember Richard Thompson from Trinidad because my mom is from Trinidad. We were cheering him on. But I can’t remember exactly,” said De Grasse after his 200 final.

His coach Stuart McMillan calls it naivety to the sport, a strength for De Grasse.

It’s not uncommon for athletes with less experience to have more success on bigger stages. They seem to be more relaxed. For example, 16-year-old Penny Oleksiak winning four swim medals at her first Olympics or golfer Brooke Henderson rising to the top of the LPGA in her rookie season.

What’s next?

For now, De Grasse is headed back to school at the University of Southern California. “I promised a lot of people I was going to get that done so I plan to have a degree in December and then just go get ready for next year, for London for the world championships,” said the native of Markham, Ont.

And his plan is to get faster.

De Grasse has progressed every year, improving from 10.25 seconds in 2013 to a 9.91 three years later in Rio. His 200 has dropped almost a full second from 20.72 in 2013 to 19.80 in Rio.

“I still want to break the Canadian record set by Donovan and Bruny [9.84 in the 100], so I have that on my target list, so hopefully next year I can get the job done with that,” said De Grasse.

There’s that confidence again.

With files from Stephanie Jenzer

Originally published at www.cbc.ca on September 1, 2016.

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