Athletics

In a race to be the next Usain Bolt

Bromell leads the field, with the likes of Baker and Simbine among contenders

The post-Usain Bolt era in the Olympic 100 metres begins this weekend, as the United States seek to regain supremacy in the event they dominated for more than a century.

The Jamaican won the last of three straight titles in Rio 2016 in 9.81 seconds and, since his retirement the following year, nobody has really stepped up to stamp their authority on the sport's most-watched race.

The US have won more golds in the event than all other nations combined, having taken 16 of the 28 Olympic titles contested, but their last success came via Justin Gatlin in 2004.

This year, though, they are back gunning to top the podium, even without the presence banned world champion Christian Coleman.

Seven out of the eight sprinters with the fastest times in 2021 have been Americans, led by Trayvon Bromell whose 9.77 second run in Florida last month is the fastest of the year and marks him as the race favourite.

He won the US trials in 9.80 to put a long and troublesome injury history behind him, but the self-described "silent killer" is not happy with the favourite tag.

"When you put yourself into that bubble, into that box, a lot of expectations come into it," the 26-year-old said recently.

"When you start living in other people's world, then you get off of your own plan."

Bromell's closest challenger is probably compatriot Ronnie Baker, who was second to him at the US trials in 9.85sec.

Baker, 27, beat Bromell in Monaco, his second successive Diamond League win, and has run an impressive wind-aided 9.78 seconds before.

BLOW OWN TRUMPET

Unlike his compatriot, Baker is happy to blow his own trumpet.

"I am one of the best runners in the world, hands down. I have been, since 2018," he said after his win in Monaco, a race that included his rivals in Tokyo.

He has also had to overcome injuries over the last few years, but he said that he was feeling confident heading into Tokyo.

"This year is probably the most technically sound I have been," he said. "I know I can run way faster than anyone."

While the US sprinters, who include Fred Kerley, the 2019 400m world bronze medallist, are contenders for all three medals, there are other runners coming to Tokyo with a mission.

Canada's Andre de Grasse, who won bronze in the 100m in Rio, has struggled with injuries in 2017 and 2018, but secured a bronze in the 100m and silver in the 200m at the 2019 world championships in Doha.

The 26-year-old told Reuters last month: "We're all just as fast, we all have around the same personal bests. You have to do it on that exact day... that's the hard part."

Another sprinter to look out for is South Africa's Akani Simbine, who clocked 9.82sec in April. The 27-year-old was fifth five years ago.

Yohan Blake, now 31, probably carries Jamaica's hopes and the 2012 silver medallist still lays claim to being the second-fastest man in history. - REUTERS

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