Canadian sprinting star Andre De Grasse was welcomed home on Wednesday by throngs of children anxiously waiting to have their pictures taken with an athlete they know will likely be the face of track and field for the next decade.
“I’m inspiring the kids to run and do whatever they want to dream of. I’m just loving the feeling right now,” De Grasse told reporters at Toronto Pearson International Airport where a second group of Canadian Olympians arrived from Rio in as many days.
The 21-year-old captured one silver and two bronze medals to become the only Canadian to win three sprinting medals in the same Olympics – an accomplishment the young runner said he didn’t think possible two years ago.
“Not until last year I felt I had the confidence to go out there and try to win three Olympic medals but it’s just an unreal feeling,” he said.
“I’m just going to take the momentum going forward and get ready for the next one.”
De Grasse’s mother Beverly, who was in Rio for her son’s medal haul and stood by as he answered questions from the media at the airport, admits the Olympic dream is still unreal.
“I remember saying congratulations. I mean amazing race. He was just smiling. I think he was just in awe of what he just did. I was telling him how proud I was of him and how much I love him,” she remembered after her son’s 100 metre race as he claimed the bronze medal.
“When I saw his name come up as a bronze medalist, I don’t know what came over me but I started to run. I just wanted to get to him and hug him.”
De Grasse said he’s thankful for the support from Canadians as his meteoric rise in the track and field world continues.
“It’s a great feeling to have the support of my country behind me. They supported me. They motivated me to go out there and try to win three Olympic medals. I’m so grateful right now.”
De Grasse said he plans on spending a few days in Toronto before flying back to his training facility in Phoenix, Arizona.
He plans to return home on Sept. 18 for a public celebration scheduled in the City of Markham where he grew up.