It has been a while since the United States put up an impressive performance in the sprints. For the majority of the new millennium Jamaica, led by Usain Bolt, has dominated the 100 and 200 meter events. Then, even during last year’s Summer Games in Tokyo, with no one from Jamaica in the Men’s 100 finals, the winner was Lamont Marcell Jacobs from Italy.
On Saturday at the World Championship in Eugene, Ore., America had a statement victory in the 100. It wasn’t simply that Fred Kerley won the race. It’s that America swept the podium like it was a No. 1 seed trouncing a No. 8 seed in the first round of the NBA playoffs. America had not swept the podium at the World Championships since 1991 when Carl Lewis was still the face of track and field.
Jacobs did not participate in the race due to injury, but it’s not like Americans finished two, three, and four behind him in Tokyo. Kerley finished second in 2021, running four hundredths of a second behind Jacobs. The bronze medalist was Canada’s Andre De Grasse, and in fourth place was Akani Simbine of South Africa. In fifth place was the next best American in that race, Ronnie Baker.
Kerley’s winning time on Saturday was 9.86. Behind him were Marvin Bracy and Trayvon Bromell as the second- and third-place finishers, respectively. They both ran a 9.88, with Bracey edging out Thompson by the narrowest of margins. The full time for Bracey is 9.88874, while Thompson ran a 9.88876. The next closest finisher was Oblique Seville of Jamaica who ran a 9.97. Simbine finished fifth with a 10.01. De Grasse failed to qualify for the finals. He has since withdrawn from the World Championships, meaning that he won’t be participating in the 200 meter, an event he won gold in in Tokyo.
With another Olympics coming in just two years, not since Justin Gatlin has America looked anywhere near this good in the men’s 100 meter dash. Gatlin had previously been the gold standard in track and field when he won the gold at the 2004 Olympic games in Sydney, with Maurice Green taking the bronze and Shaun Crawford finishing behind him in fourth. No American man has won the 100 meters at the Olympics since. Kerley was the closest with his performance in Tokyo.
No one was able to get close to Bolt, arguably the most impressive track-and-field athlete of all time, who holds both the Olympic and world records in the 100 and 200 meter events. Those world record times of 9.58 and 19.19 are the Joe DiMaggio 56-game hitting streak of that sport. Don’t ever expect those times to be topped any time soon. Maybe Gatlin could’ve pushed Bolt in the 2008 Olympics, but he was banned due to consecutive doping violations that resulted in an eight-year ban that he appealed, successfully, reducing the suspension to just four years. He returned to the Olympics in London in 2012, and won bronze in what is considered to be the greatest 100 meter race of all time.
The 2024 Olympic games will be held in Paris. Jacobs and Kerley are both currently 27, and will be 29 when they likely meet up again in France. Brommel will also be 29 while Bracy will be 30.
Americans expect to win most events at the Olympics. We already think we’re better than all of the other countries in general, and sports is one of our favorite places to flex that muscle. Finish without a gold medal in basketball and we reconstruct the entire program.
Yet for nearly 20 years, in the featured event of the games, the men’s 100 meter dash, American has not only finished without gold, it hasn’t been particularly close. In fact, America has been so thoroughly dominated that there is a face on the men’s track and field Mount Rushmore that is not American — Bolt.
But with this new trio of Kerley, Bracy, and Brommell, Paris might be for real.