Canadian sprint stars catch their breath to raise awareness on fatal lung condition

TORONTO—Canada’s men’s sprint story at last month’s world track and field championships began with the disastrous news that Andre De Grasse was out with an injury. It ended with the 4x100-metre relay team crossing a distant sixth.

Now, heading into an off-year in the sport, with no Olympics or world championships, Canada’s fastest men are taking a break and slowing down.

De Grasse and his relay teammates will spend part of the next few weeks hosting a series of six-minute walks across Canada to raise awareness for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a rare and fatal lung condition. Six minutes, explained Akeem Haynes, because “respirologists use the six-minute mark as a judgment to see if the disease is progressing, and because six minutes seems like a marathon for (sufferers).”

De Grasse, Haynes, Aaron Brown and Brendon Rodney met with the media in Toronto on Wednesday to talk about their work with IPF, part of a welcome competitive break after a largely disappointing season.

The 23-year-old De Grasse had set his season sights on beating Usain Bolt in the Jamaican superstar’s career finale, only to suffer a hamstring strain days before the worlds in London.

De Grasse has recently been cleared to resume full training, as evident by a recent Instagram post — the sprinter posted video of him playing soccer with a few friends and fellow Puma athletes on a trip last week to Germany.

“Everything is going well,” the three-time Olympic medallist said. “I had an MRI and things were perfect, so I definitely was trying to take advantage of doing other things and not thinking about track and having fun doing something else.”

De Grasse also took in Sunday’s Borussia Dortmund game at Westfalenstadion versus Cologne, and met German midfielder Marco Reus.