On this night in Tokyo, nothing was going to stop Canada’s Andre De Grasse.
With three Americans bearing down on the five-foot-eight Canadian on a stifling night, De Grasse found a different gear in the final seconds of the 200-metre final.
De Grasse surged down the stretch in lane six powerful, precise, and explosive strides to the line.
In a Canadian record time of 19.62 seconds, he crossed the line first to become Olympic champion, ahead of American Kenneth Bednarek.
When De Grasse crossed the line, he knew he had won gold.
Bring on the cheers
Find live streams, must-watch video highlights, breaking news and more in one perfect Olympic Games package. Following Team Canada has never been easier or more exciting.
“When I looked up at the scoreboard the camera was on me and I knew I did it. I was just so proud of myself,” he said.
De Grasse collapsed to the track, laying on his back and holding his head in disbelief.
“It feels amazing. Won the gold. Had a personal best. I couldn’t have asked for more. This was the race of my life,” he told CBC Sports.
“I’m so happy. I’m so proud of myself. I finally got it done. I’ve been working hard for this moment for the past five years.”
A medal for each event
The 26-year-old from Markham, Ont., now has five Olympic medals. He’s won a medal in every event he’s competed in over two Games.
But it was that gold medal he craved so badly. This was his moment and he met it on Wednesday night.
“I knew I had to get off the bend. I knew I had to,” he said.
“That was the only way I was going to win this race. I knew the Americans were going to go after it. They run hard bends.”
De Grasse said he just told himself to keep pumping his arms, breathe, relax and just go.
“That’s what I told myself. I got that done. When I watched the replay I was so excited. I’m speechless,” he said.
Fellow Canadian finishes 6th
For the first time since 1928, two Canadian men were running in the 200m final. Aaron Brown, from Toronto, finished sixth with a time of 20.20.
After the race, Brown revealed a photo of his wife and son that he had placed under his bib for the race.
“I run for Canada. I run for my fans. But most importantly I run for my wife and son,” Brown told CBC Sports.
De Grasse’s win marks the first time in 93 years a Canadian has sprinted to gold in the men’s 200 metre. Percy Williams did it in 1928 at the Games in Amsterdam — and it’s only the third time in the history of the Olympics a Canadian has captured the gold medal in the event.
After the race De Grasse took off his shoes and walked around the track draped in a maple leaf. He posed in front of hundreds of photographers as their cameras flashed away.
De Grasse then made his way over to a screen near the press area. His partner Nia Ali and children were waving wildly.
“I’ll see you soon. I love you guys. I’ll FaceTime you later. I can’t believe it. Oh my God. I did it,” De Grasse said to them.
Emerging from the shadow of Bolt
When De Grasse won his silver medal five years ago in this same event in Rio, he did it in a time of 20.02.
He was in the shadow of the greatest of them all. Usain Bolt won gold in every race he competed in during those Games – in total, Bolt won eight Olympic gold medals.
De Grasse and Bolt’s mutual respect and admiration for one another became one of the stories from those Games. The unforgettable and lasting images of that famous look-over at one another.
The celebration of each other’s medals after the races.
But in the post-Bolt era at the Olympics the door swung open for the Canadian, and he blasted through it.
“It was tough. I trained for this. Six days a week, two times a day before I get my kids,” De Grasse said.
“I knew mentally I was there. Physically I was there but this race all came down to mental preparation.”
Dave Moorcroft, CBC Sports commentator and former runner from England, said De Grasse’s poise under pressure makes him great.
“Gold medals are precious. And gold medals in track are particularly precious,” Moorcroft said.
“Athletics is the most global sport. To then be the fastest is an extra special status. Andre was close to icon status coming here. Now he’s a legend.”