Canadian sprint sensation Andre De Grasse has joined one of the world’s top track and field training programs.
The 21-year-old from Markham, Ont., moved to Phoenix this week to train with ALTIS — formerly the World Athletics Center — under Canadian power and sprint coach Stuart McMillan.
“We’re super excited, great guy,” said John Godina, founder and CEO of ALTIS and a four-time world shot put champion. “I’m just excited to have him in my group, and adding to what we’re doing out here.”
The move comes weeks after De Grasse announced he’d turned pro, signing a historic and lucrative US$11.25-million deal with Puma. He had been training at the University of Southern California while finishing his degree.
ALTIS has over 100 international athletes in various track and field disciplines, and a crew of some 35 coaches, therapists and staff members.
McMillan, who has guided over 60 Olympians in six Games — both summer and winter — said De Grasse is fitting in well in Phoenix.
“Andre has just finished an amazing season, virtually unprecedented in the history of the sport,” said McMillan. “His coaching team at USC clearly have done an exceptional job.”
“Being a professional athlete in a college system (however) has many challenges, including the fact that your coach is away for two to three days of most weeks from January to June,” he added. “The additional challenge of therapy, nutritional, supplemental, and travel support, and a relative lack of a high-quality professional group to train with, makes succeeding as a professional athlete training in a college setting extremely difficult.”
Godina originally started ALTIS as a training group for throwers, prior to the 2012 London Olympics. He then expanded the program, hiring Dan Pfaff and McMillan, among others. He most recently added Canadian sprint coach Kevin Tyler.
ALTIS coaches have guided athletes to more than 50 Olympic medals. Among Pfaff’s accomplishments was coaching Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey to Olympic gold.
“The big thing is there isn’t really an environment like this out there, as far as a complete environment,” said Godina. “It’s an athlete-centric focus, and we want to make sure the athlete has everything they need. The other thing that is really important, which a lot of people don’t understand, is having a professional training group, and having people you can work with to improve yourself — and it’s really hard to find anywhere, as far as any large gathering of elite athletes.”
De Grasse is coming off a spectacular season that saw him win bronze in the 100 metres at the world championships in Beijing. He also won both the 100 and 200 metres at the NCAA championships — less than 45 minutes apart — then repeated the double gold at the Pan American Games in Toronto.
De Grasse became just the third Canadian to break the 10-second barrier in the 100 metres behind Bailey and Bruny Surin (Ben Johnson ran sub-10 as well but the convicted doper’s times were erased from the record books). The young star also broke the Canadian record in the 200 metres.
He recently inked a multi-year deal with Puma that could see him earn as much as $30 million with bonuses.
De Grasse joins a group in Phoenix that includes Anaso Jobodwana of South Africa, world bronze medallist in the 200 metres; Wilfried Koffi, the African champion in the 100 and 200 metres; NCAA champion Ameer Webb, and Canadian sprinters Akeem Haynes, Justyn Warner and Dontae Richards-Kwok, among others.