2022 USATF Bermuda Games: Ajee’ Wilson, Grant Holloway, & Erriyon Knighton Open Up Their Outdoor Seasons in the Atlantic

By Jonathan Gault
April 7, 2022

(Update on 4/9: The meet is over. Find our recap here: Windy Conditions Wreak Havoc With Times at 2022 USATF Bermuda Games. *Full Results)

Fourteen weeks from tomorrow, the first-ever World Athletics Championships to be held in the United States will kick off in Eugene, Ore. To build up to those championships — the biggest track meet on American soil since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta — USATF has unveiled an 11-meet series called the Journey to Gold Outdoor Tour.

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It’s a good idea. In addition to staple meets like the Mt. SAC Relays, Drake Relays, and Prefontaine Classic, there’s also the USATF NYC Grand Prix on June 12 — which is basically the revival of the old adidas Grand Prix held on Randalls Island from 2005-15. More elite track meets in the USA is a good thing.

Except the first meet of the USATF Journey to Gold Outdoor Tour will be held on Saturday, and it’s inBermuda? Is that even part of the United States?

Actually, no. Is it a little weird for the USATF season to start in a British Overseas Territory in the Atlantic Ocean located 600 miles off the coast of North Carolina? Sure. But if the Bermuda Tourism Authority wants to spend a bunch of money to stage an elite track meet, who am I to stop them?

The meet, which doubles as the start of the 2022 World Athletics Continental Tour Gold (the circuit below the Diamond League) will air live on NBC from 2:30-4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. It will feature a whole bunch of US stars, including Grant Holloway, Gabby Thomas, Noah Lyles, Erriyon Knighton, and Ajee’ Wilson plus Olympic champs Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico and Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas. Outside of the men’s 100, the fields aren’t super deep, but for a meet in early April, there’s a good deal of talent on hand. Meet details and what to watch for below.

What: 2022 USATF Bermuda Games
When: Saturday, April 9
Where: Flora Duffy Stadium, Bermuda
*How to watch

Early-season check-in with the US sprinting corps

Lyles won the 100 at USAs in 2018 but struggled in the event last year (photo by Phil Bond)

The US men’s 100-meter squad is always one of the toughest teams to make. It’s slightly easier in 2022 since the US has four spots at Worlds thanks to Christian Coleman‘s bye as defending champion. But only slightly. Six Americans broke 9.90 last year, and none of them were named Christian Coleman (rank on world list in parentheses):

9.76 Trayvon Bromell (#1)
9.83 Ronnie Baker (T-#4)
9.84 Fred Kerley (T-#6)
9.85 Marvin Bracy (#8)
9.89 Isiah Young (T-#9)
9.89 Kenny Bednarek (T-#9)

The guys in bold — Baker, Bracy, and Bednarek — are all racing the 100 in Bermuda this weekend. Add in 200m Olympians Noah Lyles and Erriyon Knighton and we’re going to get a pretty good look at where things stand in the men’s 100m in the US right now, 11 weeks out from USAs. Even if we’re missing the three biggest guns — Coleman, Bromell, and Kerley.

I’m going to be most interested to watch Lyles and Knighton. Early in his pro career, Lyles looked as if he would one day be a major 100m medal threat. He ran 9.88 and won the US title in 2018 as a 20-year-old and followed it up the next year by running 9.86 and winning the Diamond League title. But even though he raced the 100 more than ever before in 2021, he took a step back last year, failing to break 10.00 until the Olympic Trials and only finishing 7th in the final in 10.05.

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Can Lyles re-establish himself as a player in the 100? Early returns in 2022 are promising — Lyles PR’d twice in the 60 meters indoors, dropping his best to 6.55. But Saturday represents a bigger test against some of his chief US rivals.

Then there’s Knighton. Do you remember how good this guy was last year? As a 17-year-old, he finished 4th in the Olympic 200 final and ran 19.84, obliterating not only Usain Bolt‘s world U18 record (20.13) but his world U20 record as well (19.93). He is, quite simply, one of the greatest sprint prospects in the history of the sport.

So far, Knighton has been a lot better in the 200, but he also didn’t race the 100 much last year. His pb is 10.16. No US high schooler has ever broken 10.00. It might not happen in his season opener (this will be his first race since Tokyo), but watching Knighton chase one of the last great remaining barriers for a high school athlete this spring should be fun, and it starts on Saturday.

A new Kenyan talent in the men’s 1500?

There are a few interesting names in the men’s 1500 in Bermuda — 3:31 man Brahim Kaazouzi of Morocco, Amos Bartelsmeyer of the Bowerman Track Club, 800 star Marco Arop of Canada — but the one to watch is Kamar Etiang of Kenya. Last year, as an 18-year-old, Etiang ran 3:33.02 to finish 2nd at the Kenyan Olympic trials — ahead of the eventual 2nd- and 4th-placers at the Olympics, Timothy Cheruiyot and Abel Kipsang. Because Etiang was still new to the scene, he was not in the drug testing pool yet and as a result did not have the requisite number of out-of-competition tests to compete in Tokyo (a requirement for Kenyan athletes based on the country’s poor recent doping record).

In 2022, everyone knows about Etiang’s potential. Now we get to see how good he can be. On paper, he should win this race comfortably. But it’s also his first time ever competing outside of East Africa. How will he adjust to the travel and his first major overseas race?

World Indoor champs Ajee’ Wilson & Grant Holloway open outdoor seasons

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Wilson isn’t resting on her laurels after winning her first world title in Belgrade on March 20. She’ll run the 800 here and will go off as the clear favorite. Domestic challengers like Charlene LipseyEmily Richards, and Samantha Watson shouldn’t prove much of a challenge; Wilson’s biggest threat here is probably 23-year-old Ellie Baker, who ran 1:59.54 and finished 4th at the British champs last year (which is more impressive when you remember GB had three Olympic finalists in 2021).

This will be a good tuneup for Wilson as she prepares for a showdown with Olympic champ Athing Mu over 600m at the Penn Relays on April 30.

As for Holloway, it’s pretty simple: if Grant Holloway is racing, you need to be watching. After Holloway’s 12.81 at last year’s Olympic Trials and his 7.29 world record at World Indoors in March, Aries Merritt‘s 12.80 world record in the 110m hurdles is officially in danger. But you never know when a hurdler is going to catch the perfect day when everything clicks — remember, that 12.81 and that 7.29 both came in the semifinals.

Is Holloway going to open his outdoor season with a world record? Most likely no. But the guy always puts on a show, and after a 2021 season in which he suffered only one loss — to Hansle Parchment in the Olympic final — Holloway will be motivated to finish the job in 2022.

Olympic champs showcase their talent

Aside from Wilson in the 800 and Holloway in the hurdles, there are a few other events in Bermuda featuring recently-crowned global champions. In the women’s 100 hurdles, Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn will run her specialty distance for the first time year and will be favored to win over US Olympians Gabbi Cunningham and Christina Clemons. Camacho-Quinn is also entered in the 200, where she’ll take on 2018 World U20 champ Briana Williams of Jamaica.

A more interesting race will come in the men’s 200, where World Indoor 400 champ Jereem Richards of Trinidad & Tobago faces Olympic 400 champ Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas. Gardiner owns the faster 200 pb (19.75 to 19.97) but only Richards has a global medal in this event (bronze in 2017), and we know he’s in good shape thanks to his world title in Belgrade. Isiah Young (5th in the Olympic Trials) and Josephus Lyles (who ran 20.03 last year and is still only 23) are among the US contingent in that race.

One more Olympic champ will be in action in Bermuda: 2012 Olympic champ Kirani James, who will face 2021 NCAA indoor champ Noah Williams in the men’s 400.

Talk about the meet on our world-famous fan forum / messageboard.

MB: Official 2022 USATF Bermuda Games Discussion Thread (NBC: 2:30-4:30 p.m. ET on Sat). Men’s 100 is LOADED, Ajee & Kamar Etiang.

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