Glenroy Gilbert is confident Andre De Grasse’s positive COVID-19 will not affect his performance at next month’s World Athletics Championships.
The Athletics Canada head coach said his ability to perform when the stakes are highest will help him.
“Andre’s not the type who needs a lot,” Gilbert said Thursday at the Canadian track and field championships. “He can keep up. We know that. And as long as he has faith in the work he’s done to get to Eugene – and he’s quick at it [Hayward Field] also on the track, you should always remember that – I think he will be good.”
De Grasse withdrew from the Canadian Championships on Monday after testing positive for COVID-19. He traditionally starts the season slowly and a foot injury early in the season contributed to his struggles in his first few races. He finished ninth at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene in May.
Last week he was finally on form, running a season-best 10.05 seconds to win the Oslo Diamond League.
“He’s very light-hearted in a lot of ways and the way he looks at things,” Gilbert said of his conversation with De Grasse this week. “He was obviously a little worried, not because of the fact that he got COVID, but suddenly he picked up steam and then something like this happened.
“But he’s feeling a lot better, things are progressing. A lot of these athletes have had and recovered from COVID and are back out here doing what they love to do,” he added, pointing to the dozens of athletes training at McLeod Athletic Park. “So the hope is that he has the same circumstances for his situation.”
Gilbert said injuries and slow starts are common after an Olympic year and several of Canada’s top athletes are struggling with injuries. Decathlon Olympic gold medalist Damian Warner sat out the national meeting with a sore knee, while Moh Ahmed, the silver medalist at the Tokyo 5,000, was also given an injury lay-off. Distance runners Gabriela DeBues-Stafford and Justyn Knight have ended their seasons with injuries.
That’s why Gilbert said that in a busy summer that includes World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the NACAC Championships, Athletics Canada has instructed athletes to pick and choose. De Grasse is only expected to run the 4×100 relay at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, to be held a few weeks after the World Championships.
De Grasse’s positive test, more than two years into the pandemic, is a reminder that the virus can still potentially derail an athlete’s season.
Athletics Canada high performance director Simon Nathan said that with precautions taken at the Tokyo Olympics, including masking and social distancing, the Canadian team suffered fewer infections there than at previous games.
“So what we are advising people is to carry on regardless of the rules, wherever you fly, wear a mask, wash your hands, all those things and make it a habit and hopefully 10 years from now people will still be doing that . independent of the other tracks,” Nathan said. “But there’s still a bit of a lottery effect in who picks it up and who doesn’t.”
The World Championships will be held July 15-24 in Eugene, Oregon, known in the sport as “TrackTown USA.”