James Linde’s “Andre de Grasse moment” didn’t happen at the Olympics but it could help propel the Coquitlam sprinter there.
Just as de Grasse caught the world’s attention last summer in Rio de Janeiro when he pushed the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, en route to a silver medal in the 100m, Linde announced his arrival as a bona fide speedster when he finished second to de Grasse in the same event at last month’s Harry Jerome International Track Classic at Percy Perry Stadium.
The 23-year-old followed that up with a fourth-place finish in the 200m at the Canadian national championships in Ottawa and, on Aug. 17, he leaves for Taiwan to race for his country at the World University Games in Taipei. The Universiade is the second biggest multi-sport athletic competition after the Olympics — and it will be the biggest competition in Linde’s athletic career.
Heading into this summer, that career looked to be winding down.
Linde just graduated from Trinity Western University, where his three medals helped the school's track and field team win its first Canada West indoor championship last February in Regina. With student loans on the horizon, along with the financial pressures that come with managing his Type 1 diabetes, he knew he would have to parlay his geography degree into some kind of work.
But that could wait until the fall.
Linde decided to dedicate himself fully to the track this summer — he wanted to walk away with no regrets, not a single what-if.
That dedication means spending every day working with his coach at the Coquitlam Cheetahs, two-time Olympian Tara Self. He pays strict attention to his diet. He’s managing his sleep.
So when Linde stepped into the starting blocks at Percy Perry Stadium in front of a couple of thousand fans there to see de Grasse — and a few friends and family there to see him — he knew he was prepared for his moment.
“Once upon a time, I would have been shaken,” Linde told The Tri-City News. “I don’t think I really get nervous anymore, I get excited. I want to race the fastest people I can just to push myself a little further.”
That sense of calm has made running fast fun, Linde said. And the results have followed.
In the corner after the finish line of their 100m race at the Jerome, Linde and de Grasse shared a moment, both of them smiling. De Grasse had just cruised to first in a modest 10.17 seconds. Linde had just run as fast as he ever had — 10.42 — to finish second.
“That just happened to be the perfect click,” Linde said. “I made sure to take that moment in. You can go a whole career without having a real special moment and that was one of the coolest ones.”
Then, while de Grasse was mobbed by hundreds of kids, Linde was asked for his autograph by some of the young runners he helps coach at the Cheetahs.
“It was really cute,” he said.
But the experience of racing well against a world-class track star has also opened Linde’s eyes to the possibilities.
“He motivates me just being lined up with him and seeing how fast he can go,” he said. “You know if you’re at that level, you have to live the sport, you have to eat, sleep and breathe track and field.”
Linde said he’s taking his athletic endeavours event by event, trying to build on his successes while still savouring each one. He’s not thinking about where they could take him. At least not yet.
“I always think I’m done,” Linde said. “I always think I’ve reached as far as I can reach and then I reach another level. The Olympics are so far away, it’s such a hard goal to reach. But I thought I’d never be right here.”