EDMONTON — Andre De Grasse might be a wealthy young man, but he's not flashing diamond watches or living in a posh penthouse apartment.
The 21-year-old from Markham, Ont., turned pro this season and signed a jaw-dropping US$11.25-million deal with Puma in December. As an athlete's first pro contract coming out of college, it was the richest in track and field history.
With bonuses, De Grasse's multi-year Puma deal could be worth as much as US$30 million.
But Canada's young sprint star, who says his meteoric rise up the global sprinting ranks has been a "whirlwind," is keeping a level head and thinking long-term. He knows he's one catastrophic injury — knock on wood — from being unemployed.
"I'm pretty young, and track is really a sport where you never know what's going to happen with injuries, and you don't get as much time," De Grasse said. "They say you might have a maximum of 10 years, so I've got to be smart with this. It's not like the NBA or baseball or hockey, where you can go out and spend as much money as you want."
Guided by his agent Paul Doyle, his earnings are either tucked away in the bank, or funnelled into investments. He receives a monthly allowance and budgets accordingly.
"I've seen too many athletes through the years make a lot of money, and spend more money than they even make, so I've been trying to instil in all my athletes much more responsible spending," said Doyle, who represents, among others, Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton and her American husband Ashton Eaton, the world record-holder in the decathlon.
"Andre has really taken it to heart. Every month when his paycheque comes in, and we send it to him, he asks me 'How much of it has to go into the tax account? How much has to go into my investment account? How much do I have in my spending account?'
"We really limit his spending account to the minimum, what he actually needs," added Doyle, who's based in Atlanta. "I've drawn it out for him, and said 'At the end of your career, if you're in this for 10 years, you're going to be able to walk away and be completely retired and have a lot of money in the bank.'
"Whereas if you spend, and buy expensive cars, expensive clothes, things like that, you're not going to have nearly as much.'"
De Grasse still drives a Honda Accord, his one major purchase since turning pro, but is considering buying a Tesla next year.
"It's good for the environment, and it's fast," he said of the electric car. "I really like the car, I actually did a test drive the other day."
De Grasse spoke Monday, just moments after being named to his first Olympic team. He won the 100 in his first sub-10 performance of the season, but wound up third in the 200 behind Brendon Rodney and Aaron Brown.
De Grasse wasn't thrilled about the conditions at the trials in Edmonton — a torrential downpour moments before their race turned into a lengthy delay.
"The weather didn't really hold up, the two-hour rain delay, I've got to do a better job of trying to prepare myself, next time that happens," he said. "But for me, I just wanted to go out there and prove fitness, and make the Olympic team for both events."
He also complained about some aches and pains. Coming off a 2015 season that saw him run a whopping 54 times, he's raced a tiny fraction of that this year, with a focus of being in top form next month in Rio.
"It's tough. (My body) is a little bit banged up, I'm not used to running four races in two days," he said. "Last year, I did a lot of that, so my fitness coming into here was a little bit out of shape, but I think by the time Rio comes, I'll be ready for six races (100 and 200 heats, semis and finals)."
If De Grasse reaches the final in his two individual events, plus the 4x100 relay, he'll race seven days in a row, from Aug. 13 to 19.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
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