In front of an excited hometown crowd, Markham, Ont. native Andre De Grasse helped unveil a sign that will mark a local street to be named after the Olympic sprinter.
De Grasse, along with local Olympians Maxime Brinck-Croteau and Rose LaBrèche, were honoured with a parade through the city along with a 2016 Rio homecoming celebration at the Markham Pan Am Centre Sunday afternoon.
“I mean I never thought this in my wildest dreams and it’s just really incredible,” an emotional De Grasse said as he wiped tears from his eyes when asked about the celebration.
De Grasse also paid tribute to his mother, Beverley, while on stage.
“My mom has been there for me all my life and she’s always there for me … just to have her there at the Olympic games with me, it meant everything to me.”
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti officially proclaimed Aug. 14, 18 and 19, 2016 as Andre De Grasse Days.
“It’s fair to say Andre De Grasse has brought sprinting back to its former glory,” Scarpitti said to cheers.
Scarpitti asked De Grasse about his relationship with Jamaican sprinting star Usain Bolt, a relationship highlighted during their competitions at the Rio Games.
“I wanted to just try go out there you know make a name, and make a statement and say I can run with the fastest man in the world,” De Grasse told the audience.
“I just wanted to go out there and prove it.”
Fencer Maxime Brinck-Croteau said Sunday’s event felt extra special compared to the events at the Rio Games.
“That had a different vibe to it because it’s everyone in the family, friends, the neighbours, the whole community … so this little ceremony that we’re having today is actually – personal experience – a little bit better than the closing or opening ceremonies.”
Rugby referee Rose LaBrèche briefly thanked her family and encouraged anyone interested in rugby to get involved.
“Not only as an athlete, but there are so many other avenues that are really viable options to get you where you want to go.”
Meanwhile after the formal presentations, De Grasse told Global News his post-Olympics schedule has been hectic and he hopes to have some vacation time around Christmas.
In addition to his athletic commitments, he said he is in the process of finishing his degree in sociology.
De Grasse had a message for the youth who came out to see him.
“When I’m out there on the track, I try to have as much fun as possible. If they can do that and continue to work hard, their dreams can come true as well.”