For the first time since 2004, the Gold Medal in the short sprint will be won by an athlete other than Jamaican Bolt.
After a clean sweep of three consecutive 100m Gold Medals in Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio de Janeiro 2016, coupled by similar feats in 200m crowns, the stage is set for a new sprint king to emerge.
In the absence of Bolt, 26-year-old US sprinter Trayvon Bromell will make a strong claim to win the 100m Gold.
Bromell clocked a world-leading 9.77s in June in Florida, which will stand as the seventh-fastest time ever in history.
Bromell proved that it was not a fluke when he won the US Olympic Trials 100m in 9.80s. But he faced tough competition from Ronnie Baker (9.85s) and Fred Kerley (9.86s) who excelled at trials.
Bromell makes a comeback to Olympic arena after being carried off the track in a wheelchair after rupturing his achilles during the 4x100m relay at the last Rio Games. He finished eighth in the 100m final in 2016.
“I didn’t feel any reason to even still live in 2018. I came into a sport that I felt saved my life and I lost it all. I felt like I was in a dark environment. I felt like I was a shadow to the world,” Bromell said.
He credits his friends and coaches with dragging him back from the wilderness. Over the past two years, he has surged to the top of the sport and now stands poised to bag the richest prize in his career.
Bromell doesn’t like to talk about being the Olympic favourite, nor does he want to predict what time will be needed to win in Tokyo.
“The time doesn’t matter. It’s the medal, the opportunity, the race itself. At the end of the day, if you win with 10.0s, it’s still a Gold Medal regardless if you go that fast or go 9.7s or 9.6s. I’m going into the race just wanting to be the first person to the line,” he said.
As a man emphasizes his spiritual faith, Bromell said he is not chasing fame, glory, or money. He only needs to use the spotlight to be a role model spreading a message of hope and resilience.
Baker has also battled back from injuries in impressive fashion to post eight victories this season, including Diamond League wins in July in Stockholm (10.03) and Monaco (9.91).Former US champion at 400m, Kerley surprised many when he dropped down to race the 100m and 200m, but showed his talent with his third-place finish in the 100m at the trials.
Akani Simbine of South Africa clocked the second-fastest time of the year with an African record of 9.84 in Szekesfehervar. The 27-year-old, who finished fifth in 2016 Rio (9.94s) and fourth in Doha (9.93s), is aiming to become the first African to win the Olympic 100m title since South Africa’s Reggie Walker at the 1908 London Games.
Canada’s multiple World and Olympic Medallist Andre De Grasse is always a threat. He won the 100m Bronze in 9.91s, Silver in the 200m and Bronze in the sprint relay in Rio and followed with Bronze in the 100m (9.90s) and Silver in 200m in Doha.
De Grasse ran a season’s best 9.92 in May in Jacksonville, but has run under 10 seconds only twice in seven races this year.
Jamaica’s 31-year-old Yohan Blake, the 2011 world 100m champion, won Silver at the 2012 Olympics and finished fourth in Rio. The two-time Olympic relay Gold Medallist has won 10 out of 13 races over 100m this year, including a fastest time of 9.95s.
Hosts Japan has Ryota Yamagata, who clocked a Japanese record 9.95s in Tottori in June. He is only the fourth Japanese sprinter to go under 10s.