Olympic champion De Grasse relishing rivalry with new star Knighton
In this file photo taken on August 4, 2021, Canada’s Andre De Grasse celebrates after winning the men’s 200m final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. (Photo: AFP)

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom (AFP) — Olympic champion Andre De Grasse said Friday he will be relishing the rivalry with American sensation Erriyon Knighton over the coming years.

Canadian De Grasse, 27, sprinted out of the shadow of Jamaican legend Usain Bolt after winning 200m gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

And he now has Knighton snapping at his heels, the 18-year-old becoming the fourth-fastest man in history with 19.49sec earlier this month.

“He’s very young and talented,” De Grasse told AFP of Knighton on the eve of the Diamond League meet in Birmingham.

“I definitely look forward to competing against him. He’s younger than me, hopefully I can compete with him a little bit longer.”

Today, the Canadian competes in Birmingham in his second 100m of the year against strong opposition, including his American training partner Trayvon Bromell and compatriot Aaron Brown.

De Grasse said he suffered “a little bit” competing in Bolt’s shadow, taking silver behind the Jamaican great over 200m at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

And he urged Knighton not to be distracted by comparisons with the eight-time Olympic gold medallist.

“I wanted to be known just for me. Every time before I wanted the Olympic gold, everyone would associate me with Usain Bolt,” said four-time world medallist De Grasse.

“I wanted to be just me. I think now that I’ve won a gold medal it takes away that moment a little bit, just to say, ‘He’s a champion as well,’ not just the guy who ran against Usain Bolt.

De Grasse wants to put his name among the legends of the sport with a first gold at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, in July.

“That’s something that I want to accomplish to remember my name and remember all the things I’ve done in the sport and know that I came out and was one of the best,” he said.

And he urged Knighton “to be himself, don’t worry about being the next Usain Bolt”.

“That puts a lot more pressure when people say that you’re the next Usain Bolt. Be yourself, don’t think about the pressure.

“Usain is 6ft 6in, I don’t know how tall Erriyon is, maybe 5ft 11in. Just be you, have fun, enjoy the moment, don’t worry about people.”

He added: “I think the era of track and field is changing, even like Bromell, so many people are smaller not as big. [It will be] interesting to see how that goes into the next generation.”

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