Can Andre De Grasse run 100 m in Jesse Owens’ shoes?

It’s not every day you get to film a top sprinter in his prime, let alone have him run just for you. But that’s what the Kensington crew did with Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse – fresh of his two gold-medal runs at the Pan Am Games in Toronto. 

Andre De Grasse

A number of key people were involved in the shoot, but of course, Andre was the star:

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Andre is participating in an “equalizing test” we’re conducting for our documentary The Equalizer. In it, we ask top individual athletes of today to compete against a record-setting predecessor to see if they can win. The tests must factor in a number of variables such as equipment, terrain and other conditions.

In the 100 m sprint test, we asked Andre to wear the running shoes that American sprinter Jesse Owens would have worn. Owens made history in 1936 by winning the gold medal at the Berlin Olympics with a time of 10.3 seconds.

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These new (but vintage) black track shoes were made by Toronto cobbler Peter Feeney.

Continuing the conversation about equipment is Kensington producer Robert Lang (left), Andre and Dr. Steve Haake, our equalizing sports scientist from the University of Sheffield Hallam:


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Tony Sharpe, Athletics coach and former Olympic sprinter was also on hand. He brought with him a squad from his Speed Academy:

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Here Andre is leading the Speed Academy athletes in a warm-up (pick up those knees!)

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It was pretty sweet to watch the kids and Andre share in a love for the track.

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Meanwhile, a portion of the track had to be measured for 100 m accuracy and marked appropriately:

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Andre was given a video of Jesse Owens to watch and the young track star was motivated by what he saw.

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Finally it was time for Andre to hit the track:

andre de grasse on training for The Equalizer

After the run, Andre said, “I feel really proud to have raced against Jesse Owens. I feel like I’m part of something special now and I hope I can follow his footsteps and win the gold”

Andre de Grasse closeup portrait

What was Andre’s time? You’ll have to wait a little longer to find out (!) as our production wraps and moves into the editing phase.

The film will air on CBC’s Nature of Things in Canada and ZDF Arte in Europe early in the new year, exact times and dates TBD.

Photos by Jorge Thielen