Trayvon Bromell after taking World Championship bronze
“Honestly, I’m probably the most boring person in the world,” says world 100m bronze medallist Trayvon Bromell. Sorry, Tray, but we disagree.
In 2014, the 19-year-old Trayvon Bromell was branded one-to-watch after he ran 9.97 to break the world junior record and become the first teen to record a sub-10 100m. He didn’t slow down in 2015, ending the season with a world championship bronze medal and a pro contract with New Balance. Doesn’t sound boring so far, does it?
There’s more: this year the Baylor University corporate communications student dipped below the 10-second barrier seven times. His 9.84 PB at the US Outdoor Championships in June ranks him fourth in the world for 2015, and the 10th fastest in history.
Reflecting on his achievements so far, Bromell describes 2015 as “unpredictable”. At the Beijing world champs he cruised through to the semi-final as second fastest (9.91), before squeezing in to the next round in 9.99. In a thriller of a final, which Usain Bolt won in 9.79, Bromell finished tied third with fellow NCAA sprinter Andre De Grasse of Canada.
“The biggest unpredictable thing that came was worlds. Nobody felt like me and De Grasse would pull out a third place in a [world] championship. I thought Asafa [Powell] was going to get in there and get a medal, but for two young guys to go in and both get third tied coming off the collegiate circuit, I felt that was a biiiig, big surprise for everybody. Nobody expected us to do as well as we did.”
SERIOUSLY TIGHT: Bromell (lane 3) and De Grasse (lane 9) matched each other in the 100m final down to 1/1000 of a second
To do so well at a young age takes more than practice and a bit of talent. It takes total commitment. “I don’t go out a lot. If I’m not training, I’m in my room sleeping, recovering or getting treatment. I literally don’t do nothing,” he says, trying to explain his earlier statement.
His “boring” life off the track has not stopped him from turning heads on it. In October he turned pro, meaning he will forgo his NCAA eligibility in 2016. But in an Olympic year the chance to compete on the international circuit can be crucial for development. He may only be 20 years old, but Bromell talks like he understands the business, and going pro was a business decision.
“I just feel like right now I was in a good position to go pro,” he explains. “If I went back to school to compete as a Baylor athlete, say for instance I then get hurt? Then my value will go down. I didn’t really want to take that opportunity. I would have been crazy if I didn’t take it.”
2016 will be another big year. In March the IAAF World Indoor Championships head to Portland, Oregon – the first time a world champs will be taking place on US soil.
“I feel like I could make a lot of noise with my first professional season,” Bromell says, clearly thrilled at the prospect of performing in front of a home crowd.
“I love indoors. I love the adrenaline and I love coming out of the blocks fast, so it’ll be real exciting to see what I can do.”
Bromell's pro deal was big news in the world of track (photo: Pace Sports Management)
The past season gave the Florida native a taster of the senior international circuit and he took it all in his (very fast) stride. Now his confidence is brimming.
“In this last season I felt like I can be a big competitor to a lot of athletes,” he says. “You know how people say they get jet lag and all that, I really don’t get affected by it for some reason. I’m always ready to compete. I feel like with my injuries nothing can get in my way now. I went to the bottom, so a little jet lag is not going to affect me.”
He really has been to the bottom. Between 8th and 10th grade he broke both knees, his forearm, and fractured his hip. Having outgrown his injury-hit teenage years, he is now working on other issues. Namely managing his performances at championships.
At the 2015 USA nationals he ran a PB 9.84 in the heats. He followed this with a mind-boggling (albeit wind-assisted) 9.73, and then a modest 9.96 for silver in the final. When we bring up the fact that his fastest times often come in earlier rounds, he laughs: “Honestly, it’s crazy you ask that, because somebody asked me that the other day, just like a random person.
“To be completely honest, I can’t control myself in prelims and semis. At USAs when I ran the 9.84 in the heats, I promise I was not trying to run that fast. I was literally trying to pull up. I was telling myself ‘ok I’m gonna run a 9.97 or a 10 flat’ and then I slowed down, I looked up and I was like ‘okaaayyy, I did NOT try to do THAT’.
"I WENT HOW FAST IN THE HEAT?"
“It’s a mental thing. Just like when people say semis is the hardest round to get out of in a championship – which it is – I just think it’s a mind thing. For example I didn’t have a great semi at worlds because I was stressing – ‘I need to make it to finals’ – and that’s where I started pressing and that’s why I went backwards.”
Going backwards and still going sub-10 is a measure of just how much talent the young man posesses. And there’s one seriously strong argument speaking for Bromell’s bright future: his age. The only three men ahead of him in this year’s world rankings are Justin Gatlin (33), Usain Bolt (29) and Asafa Powell (33). Bromell turned 20 in July, a month before the world champs.
“I feel like we are the future,” says Bromell of himself and fellow bronze medallist De Grasse (who turned 21 in November).
“Me and De Grasse have a lot in common. From what he’s been through coming into track and field, and with me being the first high schooler to ever break 10, those are the things people haven’t seen in history.
“It’s a lot that is hitting us at a young age that could set us up for a big future, we could possibly be the next biggest things in track and field.”