Andre De Grasse has won three Olympic medals and made international headlines last year in Rio when he raced — and smiled — side-by-side with Jamaican legend Usain Bolt.
But in June, Coquitlam residents will get the chance to see the 22-year-old Canadian sprinter — along with countless other international track stars — when the city hosts the Harry Jerome Track Classic at Percy Perry Stadium.
“This doesn’t come up every year,” said Doug Clement, chair of the Achilles International Track Society, which organizes the event. “People will look back in 20, 30 years and they will say, ‘I remember. I saw Andre De Grasse running in Percy Perry Stadium.’”
Aside from the Canadian trials in Ottawa this summer, it is likely that Coquitlam appearance will be the only time De Grasse competes on home soil before attending the world championship in London later this year.
Clement said spectators should be ready for a show.
He said the track in Coquitlam has a reputation for being fast, which is ideal for De Grasse and the countless other competitors expected to attend the event.
“We could see an under-10-second 100 m,” he said.
De Grasse charmed Canadians during the Rio Olympics last year when he won bronze medals in the 100 m and the 4x100 relay.
However, one of the most memorable moments of the 2016 Games came when, during the 200 m semifinals, De Grasse caught up to Usain Bolt and the two locked eyes, smiling while running across the finish line. Bolt won the contest but De Grasse was 0.01 s behind him, and the finished the finals in the same positions, the Canadian grabbing a silver medal.
He also has a bronze in the 100 m and 4x100 m relay from the Beijing World Championship in 2015 as well as golds in the 100 m and 200 m during the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.
In the past, the Harry Jerome Track Classic was held at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby but work is expected to be done to resurface the track this summer. While the dates for the work have not been finalized, Clement said the society decided to relocate the event to Coquitlam just in case.
With the Evergreen Extension’s final stop at Town Centre Park, he added, moving the meet to Percy Perry Stadium was an easy decision.
“We took a look at the stadium 10 days ago and we were quite impressed,” he said, later adding, “It’s top flight.”
When asked whether the Harry Jerome could move to Coquitlam for the long term, Clement said, “Who knows what the future will hold?” However, he noted that at 6,000 seats, Swangard has a much higher capacity than the 1,482-seat Percy Perry.
Kathleen Reinheimer, Coquitlam’s manager of parks, said the city is looking forward to hosting the event this summer — and maybe again in the future. She added that Coquitlam has held international events before — most recently the FIL U-19 Men’s Lacrosse World Championships last summer — and has the facilities and transportation infrastructure to accommodate the crowds.
“We are thrilled,” she said, adding, “We will certainly show them our absolute best.”
The Harry Jerome Track Classic has seen some of the country’s — and the world’s — top athletes over its 33-year history. Donovan Bailey ran the 100 m in 9.97 seconds at the 1996 event a few weeks before winning the event with a 9.84 showing at the Olympic Games in Atlanta.
This summer is also not the first time the event has been held in Coquitlam. In 1995, Town Centre Park hosted the meet, which featured world heptathlon record holder Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who won the 100 m hurdles, along with Quincy Watts, who set a meet record in men’s hurdles.