Athletics - Sprinter De Grasse taking it slow and steady

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Andre De Grasse arrives at the iHeartRadio MuchMusic Video Awards (MMVA) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - Andre De Grasse's business is speed but the Canadian sprinter was selling the slow and steady approach on Wednesday as he prepared to make his return to the starting blocks after two injury-disrupted seasons.

Hailed as sprinting's next big thing by no less than Usain Bolt after winning three medals at the 2016 Olympics, De Grasse has seen his rising star clipped by a bout of mononucleosis sandwiched between hamstring pulls.

The first hamstring injury kept De Grasse out of the 2017 world championships, while the mononucleosis delayed his start to the 2018 campaign and was followed by another hamstring problem that ended his season.

The Canadian has not raced since a third place finish at the national championships last July and has not run a non-wind-assisted 100m under 10 seconds since clocking a personal best 9.91 for bronze at the Rio Summer Games.

"I'm good," De Grasse told Reuters, as he stood shivering on a windswept Toronto street corner, a beanie pulled down over his ears and his hands covered in Maple Leaf mitts as part of Hudson Bay's National Red Mitten Day in support of the Canadian Olympic Foundation.

"I've recovered from my hamstring injury I'm 100 percent now so I am just looking forward to starting my season and getting ready for the world championships next September."

After idling on the sidelines there is much work be done if De Grasse is to catch up with a group of American sprinters, who have been dominating the 100m in the Canadian's absence.

Christian Coleman (9.79), Ronnie Baker (9.87), Noah Lyles (9.88) and Michael Rodgers (9.89) posted the four fastest times in the 100m this season, all better than De Grasse's career best.

Another American, Justin Gatlin, blazed to 100m gold at the 2017 world championships ahead of Coleman, who captured the 60m world indoor title in March.

This season Lyles took home the Diamond League 200m title as Baker posted five of the top 10 times in the 100m.

"Everybody is running fast, I've competed against those guys in the past and I'm looking forward to getting back on the track and racing against them again," said De Grasse, adding he expected to return to full training before the end of the month.

"If I'm healthy I'm confident things will work out and be successful.

"For me right now it is all about trusting the process.

"Sometimes I try to push myself a little bit too hard but coach tells me to be patient, believe in yourself and things will fall into place."

The focus next year will be the world championships in Qatar.

After missing out on the 2017 worlds, the 24-year-old will be eyeing a return to the podium having snatched a pair of bronze medals in the 100m and 4x100m relay at the 2015 edition in Beijing.

The Rio Olympic 200m silver medallist has pencilled in few meetings in his build up to Qatar, with only the world relay championships in May in Japan confirmed.

He said he would consider "one or two indoor meets" and might defend his 100 and 200m titles at the Pan Am Games in Lima.

"Obviously you don't want to rush yourself back into it because it is going to take a bit of time and do the little things right, do the small things, the little things count at this point," said De Grasse.

(This story clarifies Red Mitten Day "in support" of the Canadian Olympic Foundation)

(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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