Canadian sprint star Andre De Grasse has a new home and a new coach.
The six-time Olympic medallist and partner Nia Ali, an American hurdler, have moved to Orlando to work with Irishman John Coghlan, but De Grasse said the move was more about a fresh start heading into the 2024 Paris Olympics than controversy around his former coach Rana Reider.
“I’ve been with Rana for the last three years and I just felt like I wanted a change mentally,” De Grasse said. “I just wanted to try something different.
“It had nothing to do really with what was happening, I still don’t even know what’s going on, because no one said anything. Some people left and some people stayed, but everyone has their own reason. But I just wanted to try to get a fresh start, and I like Orlando. . . . I think it would be good for my kids as well.”
Reider, who has guided a number of the world’s top sprinters and jumpers to Olympic and world medals, is being investigated by the U.S. Center for SafeSport for sexual misconduct. The fallout after news broke in November of 2021 saw Athletics Canada withdraw its funding for coaching for Canadian athletes training with Reider and his Tumbleweed Track Club in Jacksonville, Fla. UK Athletics pulled its funding entirely for any British athletes training there.
Pending the results of the inquiry, World Athletics blocked Reider’s coaching accreditation for the world championships last summer in Eugene, Ore., where De Grasse anchored Canada’s 4×100-metre relay team to gold. The Guardian reported that Reider was removed by security, and police called, after he gained unauthorized access to the athlete warmup area.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. Reider’s lawyer, Ryan Stevens, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The 28-year-old De Grasse, who is in Toronto this week for his Andre De Grasse Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament, won Olympic gold in the 200 metres under Reider in Tokyo. His three medals there brought his Olympic total to six, making him Canada’s most decorated male summer Olympian.
Last season, however, was largely derailed by a nagging foot injury and then a second bout of COVID-19 less than a month before the worlds. After failing to make the 100 final at Eugene’s Hayward Field, he withdrew from the 200, but mustered a blistering anchor leg in the 4×100 relay to win gold with Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake and Brendon Rodney.
He began working with Coghlan about six weeks ago, and while adjusting to a new coach usually takes time, De Grasse said the fact both Coghlan and Reider are disciples of renowned sprint coach Loren Seagrave has helped accelerate the learning phase.
“Some of the things I’ve done in the past are similar, and then there are some things (with a different) kind of philosophy, method,” De Grasse said. “So I’m still getting to learn a little bit about him and the program.”
Coghlan, a Dubliner, is friends with one of De Grasse’s agents, Paul Doyle. He left the UK to move to Orlando in 2020 to work with hurdler Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, who went on to win the 100 hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics, delivering Puerto Rico its first Olympic victory in track and field.
De Grasse and Ali — the 100 hurdles world champion in 2019 and a mom of three, who is planning to race at the Paris Olympics — both like the fact Coghlan’s training group is small.
“I felt like I wanted a little bit more attention to detail and stuff like that going into my next Olympics,” said De Grasse, who’s living in an Airbnb in Orlando until the family moves into a new house next month. “I’m getting older, so I was just trying to try to do something different this time around. So, hopefully having a smaller crew will help me with my performances.”
De Grasse spoke over the phone Wednesday en route to the Pan Am Sports Centre. He laughed about the Christmas mayhem that comes with having three kids. He and Ali have a four-year-old daughter Yuri, a son born in May of 2021, and Ali has a son Titus from a previous relationship.
“It’s that time of the year where it’s always searching for presents last minute . . . and getting dinner and all that in order. But yeah, we made it. It was good,” De Grasse said. “We’re going to try to not be so last-minute next year.”
He was thrilled to be back hosting his basketball tournament, which ran in his hometown of Markham, Ont., for three years before COVID-19. This year’s event in Scarborough, where De Grasse grew up playing basketball for the Scarborough Blues, saw four division champions crowned Wednesday.
“It’s good to be back and see the kids again and put on this tournament, because everyone enjoys it, and it’s always exciting this put this on for the holidays and give the kids something to do during the Christmas break,” he said, adding that a few of his longtime friends plus family members helped him run the event.
Proceeds from the tournament, co-hosted by the Ontario Basketball Association, are going to his foundation and Kids Help Phone.
The controversy around Reider, meanwhile, has seen numerous athletes leave, with De Grasse and British sprinter Adam Gemili, the European 200-metre champion, among the most recent. Gemili told Reuters the “bad press” around the coach had impacted his performance.
Reider isn’t permitted to coach without supervision pending the outcome of the SafeSport investigation, and he’s not permitted to contact certain individuals.