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World Athletics Championships Oregon22

Series21 Apr 2021


100 ones to watch in Tokyo: sprinters

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100 ones to watch - 10 sprinters (© Getty Images)

Every athlete has a story.

When the athletics competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games gets underway in late July, each of the 1900 track and field athletes in action will have their own tale of perseverance, dedication and an unwavering will to succeed.

To mark the 100-day countdown to the start of the athletics schedule in the Japanese capital, we will highlight 100 ones to watch in the lead-up to the Games. Some are known stars, some are gold medal favourites, others will be outsiders. But they all have fascinating stories that will be worth following as the Games draw ever closer.

Every 10 days we’ll profile 10 new athletes, each time focusing on a different area of the sport, beginning with the sprints.

 

Gina Bass

Gina Bass

The Gambia

100m and 200m

The Gambian sprinter made a big breakthrough in 2019, setting national records of 11.13 for 100m and 22.58 for 200m. She won the African Games title over 200m and then finished sixth in that event at the World Championships in Doha.

Her 2020 campaign started promisingly, as she won all six of her 60m races during the indoor season, reducing her PB to 7.11. She hasn’t competed since then, but if she is able to pick up in 2021 where she left off last year, Bass could become the first Gambian sportsperson to reach an Olympic final in any sport.

 

Trayvon Bromell

Trayvon Bromell

USA

100m

Following a successful U20 career, the US sprinter appeared to be on course to fulfil his potential when he stepped up to the senior ranks. A world 100m bronze medal in 2015 was followed by a world indoor 60m title in 2016, still aged just 20 at the time.

But injuries struck later that year and, bar a few low-key appearances, Bromell was out of action for several years. He made a promising return last year, though, clocking 9.90 and a wind-assisted 9.87. He also impressed during the indoor season earlier this year, running 6.48 for 60m.

 

Brittany Brown

Brittany Brown

USA

200m

Heading into the 2019 US Championships, Brown was just the 10th-ranked US woman over 200m. But she booked her spot on the team for the World Championships in Doha by finishing second at the trials, and then went on to time her season peak to perfection, taking silver at the World Championships with a PB of 22.22.

Up until then, Brown was unsponsored. To make ends meet, she had worked as a babysitter, a bus girl in a restaurant, and as a caregiver for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. She has since turned professional, so is now able to dedicate more time to the sport – which could also mean more medals for the 26-year-old.

 

Ajla del Ponte

Ajla del Ponte

 

Switzerland

100m

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Swiss sprinter was able to enjoy a relatively full outdoor campaign last year, leading to victories on the Diamond League circuit and a 100m PB of 11.08.

The PBs have continued into 2021 and her indoor season reached a climax at the European Indoor Championships in Torun, where she sped to a world-leading 7.03 victory over 60m. She also has strong medal chances in the 4x100m, having improved significantly since she helped Switzerland to a fourth-place finish at the 2019 World Championships.

 

Candace Hill

Candace Hill

 

USA

100m and 200m

There was a lot of buzz around the US sprinter in 2015 when she recorded a world U18 best of 10.98, becoming the youngest woman ever to break 11 seconds for 100m. She went on to win the sprint double at the 2015 World U18 Championships and 100m gold at the 2016 World U20 Championships.

Unfortunately she sustained a few injuries and then struggled with the transition from high school to college. But her career is now back on track and this year she has set a 60m PB of 7.16, clocked a wind-assisted 22.43 for 200m, and ran 11.13 in her 100m season opener, her fastest 100m since 2016.

 

Shaunae Miller-Uibo

Shaunae Miller-Uibo

 

The Bahamas

400m

The Bahamian star is one of the most dominant and all-round talented sprinters in the world and is one of just five women in history to have broken 11 seconds for 100m, 22 seconds for 200m and 49 seconds for 400m.

She may not have had the best of luck at the World Championships – she finished second over 400m in 2015, missed out on the medals in 2017, and narrowly missed out again in 2019 – but she got it right on the Olympic stage in 2016 and will be keen to do so again in Tokyo.

 

Michael Norman

Michael Norman

 

USA

400m

The 23-year-old is the first and only US man to have broken 10 seconds for 100m, 20 seconds for 200m and 44 seconds for 400m, making him a triple threat.

The 400m has been his main focus in recent years, though, and he ended 2018 (43.61) and 2019 (43.45) as the world leader in that event. Injury prevented him from being at his best at the World Championships in Doha, but his training since then is said to have gone very well. And given his mother is Japanese, he may earn some additional fans from the Olympic host nation this year.

 

Hakim Sani Brown

Hakim Sani Brown

 

 

Japan

100m and 200m

The Japanese sprinter exploded on to the scene in 2015, first winning the sprint double at the World U18 Championships in Cali and then reaching the 200m semifinals at the senior World Championships in Beijing.

He went one better in 2017, reaching the World Championships 200m final at the age of 18, and then broke the Japanese 100m record in 2019 with 9.97. Later that year he anchored Japan to 4x100m bronze at the World Championships, clocking 37.43 – making them the fourth-fastest relay nation in history after Jamaica, USA and Great Britain.

 

Wayde van Niekerk

Wayde van Niekerk

 

South Africa

400m

The South African sprinter made two pieces of history in 2016: earlier that year he became the first man in history to break 10 seconds for 100m, 20 seconds for 200m and 44 seconds for 400m. And he capped that season with a world 400m record of 43.03 at the Olympics in Rio.

But after winning his second world 400m title in 2017, Van Niekerk picked up an injury while playing rugby, which kept him out of action for the best part of two years. His performances over the past 12 months, though, have been encouraging and he looks on track to make it to Tokyo.

 

Anthony Zambrano

Anthony Zambrano

 

 

Colombia

400m

Few would have picked the Colombian sprinter as a 400m medal contender ahead of the 2019 World Championships, but he produced a huge PB of 44.15 in the final to take the silver medal, breaking the South American record in the process.

The 23-year-old is building up a solid championship record, having won the 400m and 4x400m at the 2018 and 2019 South American Championships and at the 2019 Pan-American Games. He has already made a promise to himself that he will win an Olympic medal.