By Frank Pingue
TORONTO (Reuters) - Andre De Grasse is eager to return stronger from a season-ending hamstring injury that deprived him of a showdown with Usain Bolt and is now focused on breaking the Canadian 100 metres record.
The 22-year-old triple Olympic sprint medallist, who was expected to be Bolt's main rival for his 100m crown in the Jamaican's farewell championship in London, begins training next week for a campaign that will come with lofty expectations.
"Still trying to map out my goals," De Grasse, who acknowledged it will be years before he seeks the title of world's fastest man, said in an interview.
"I want to break the Canadian record but definitely there are ways and steps to do it and I haven't thought about the whole process of the goals yet but it's early."
To break the Canadian 100m record of 9.84 seconds which was set by Donovan Bailey when he won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, De Grasse said he needs to focus on improving his starts.
Once he gets upright, De Grasse showcases a speedy stride that is near perfection.
But De Grasse, who has been running competitively for five years, has not perfected the complex string of movements to quickly get from the sound of a pistol into a full gallop.
"My transition phase is getting good, my finish is strong so just trying to work on that first 30 metres," said De Grasse, who finished third at the Rio Olympics with a personal best time of 9.91.
"I did a good job at a couple meets last year on my starts so just trying to be more consistent."
To help improve his starts, De Grasse said he will spend even more time doing resistance drills, working on block starts and weight training.
With the next world championships not taking place until 2019, De Grasse is looking forward to competing at home in August when the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) championships are held in Toronto.
It was in Toronto, after all, where the Canadian sprint sensation had his coming out party at the 2015 Pan American Games. De Grasse won the 100m gold and the 200m crown two days later in a Canadian and Pan Am record time of 19.88.
De Grasse, who will skip the world indoor championships in March and hopes to compete at the April 4-15 Commonwealth Games in Australia, does not feel running both distances is holding him back from more success.
He believes running both sprints gives him more endurance and he would not even consider dropping one in favour of the other until the last couple years of his career.
While De Grasse chases the Canadian 100m record this season he knows he has a few more years before he makes a run at Bolt's title as the world's fastest man.
Bolt's last 100m final ended in shock at the worlds as the eight-times Olympic champion was beaten to gold by American Justin Gatlin.
"I don't think I can call myself the fastest man from results at Commonwealth or NACAC," De Grasse said. "So at the next 2019 world championships in Qatar and then in Tokyo (2020 Olympics) I am going to try and do that."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)