A Tale of Three Medals: Led by Fred Kerley, US Men Sweep the 100 at Worlds

By Jonathan Gault
July 15, 2022

EUGENE, Ore. – For more than seven years now, the 2022 World Athletics Championships have been pitched as an opportunity to grow the sport of track & field in the United States, a start on the road to competing with the likes of soccer and tennis for the American sporting oxygen not gobbled up by the “major” sports, led by the NFL.

And for about 10 minutes on Saturday night inside Hayward Field, it sure felt like track & field was big-time. At a quarter to eight, two F-15 jets roared and titled over the infield. The new Hayward, Phil Knight’s $270 million track palace that opened last year, was the fullest it has ever been (mostly – but not completely – full), housing a crowd bursting with anticipation. And most importantly, a few minutes later the guys on the track put on a show in the sport’s marquee event, the men’s 100-meter final.

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Americans Fred Kerley, Marvin Bracy, and Trayvon Bromell finished 1-2-3, Olympic silver medalist Kerley winning his first world title in 9.86 seconds, running down Bracy (9.88), who had led until the final meters. Bracy’s training partner Bromell clocked an identical 9.88, and when his time was revealed on the Hayward scoreboard, the crowd erupted into cheers of U-S-A! U-S-A!

It was a moment, a quintessentially American moment at the first World Championships to be held in this country. 

“It was special to us,” Bracy said. “To come out and get the job done on home soil in this fashion, what more could we ask for?”

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Will that moment move the needle in that everlasting battle to grow the sport in the US? Perhaps not. But the bedrock of US track & field has never been the bells and whistles. It has been the dominance of Team USA, and that legacy was strengthened tonight in an event the US has dominated at the Worlds, save for the Usain Bolt-led Jamaican interregnum of the 2000s and 2010s. Kerley’s win gave American men their 11th 100m win in 18 editions of the World Championships, and their third podium sweep, joining the 1983 and 1991 teams.

That dominance went missing in Tokyo last year. For the first time in Olympic history (save for the 1980 US boycott in Moscow), the US men failed to win an individual gold medal on the track. The men’s 100 title went to an American-born Italian, Marcell Jacobs, who scratched from Worlds prior to tonight’s semifinals after failing to overcome the hamstring/back injury that has plagued him throughout the spring and summer.

Kerley remedied that Tokyo disappointment in the first track final of these championships, and there should be more gold to come. Americans are heavily favored in the 200, 400, and 110 hurdles and have the second-fastest 400-meter hurdler of all-time in Rai Benjamin. Early days, but a sprint sweep is on the table.

“What happened last year happened last year,” Kerley said. “This year is a new year and we got the job done.”

But US track stars do not simply roll off the assembly line onto a World Championship podium. Each medal is a story, and Kerley, Bracy, and Bromell have three good ones. In 2019, Kerley was a 400-meter star, Bracy had been out of the sport for two years and was trying to make it as a football player, and Bromell was in year three of a what seemed like an endless injury cycle with a season’s best of 10.54. For even one of them to occupy a podium spot three years later was an incredible longshot.

Kerley’s path never seemed destined to lead to a 100-meter gold medal. With his father in jail and his mother struggling, Kerley moved to the town of Taylor, Tex., about half an hour outside Austin, as a 10-year-old where he was adopted by his Aunt Virginia, sharing a room with 12 siblings. Kerley played football in high school – this was Texas, after all – and though he ran track at Taylor High, he viewed the sport as little more than a six-week conditioning camp before 7-on-7 football began in the spring.

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That changed when he broke his collarbone in 2012, which led to Kerley taking track more seriously (though he never ran the open 100 in high school) and eventually walking on at South Plains Community College in 2013. From there, he was recruited to Texas A&M, where he thrived as a 400 runner, winning the NCAA title in 2017 and a World Championship bronze in 2019. But heading into last year’s Olympic Trials, Kerley had an ankle injury that prevented him from running fast on the turns. He entered the 100, 200, and 400 but scratched from the latter – too many turns.

“Before declarations, he said I can’t get through three rounds of the 400 meters because my ankle’s not going to hold up for that,” said his agent Ricky Simms.

Kerley earned the final spot on the US team in the 100, then ran a pb of 9.84 in the final in Tokyo to earn the silver medal. Since then, he’s only gotten better, running 9.76 and winning the US title in 2022. By the time of tonight’s final, he was the heavy favorite and delivered as such.

Bracy was an age-group star, running 10.25 as a high schooler and turning pro after just one season at Florida State. He earned a silver at World Indoors in the 60 in 2014 and made the Olympic team in the 100 in 2016 but quit the sport a year later to pursue an NFL career. He went to training camp with the Indianapolis Colts in 2017 and the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 but nothing came of it. By 2019, he was playing with the Orlando Apollos of the upstart Alliance of American Football when he broke his arm in their season opener.

“I realized right then and there, damn, my football dream might be over,” Bracy said. “I decided right then to come back to track.”

Now Bracy, 28, is running faster than his first stint as a sprinter, with a season’s best of 9.85 last year, a bronze at World Indoors in March and now his first outdoor Worlds medal.

Bromell’s journey is perhaps the most-publicized, and his emotions were the most obvious on a tearful victory lap. A teen phenom – Bromell was the youngest man in history to break 10.00 when he did it as an 18-year-old – Bromell seemed destined for greatness after running 9.84 and earning bronze at Worlds in 2015 at age 20. But Bromell tore his left Achilles at the 2016 Olympics, and underwent two surgeries – one in 2016 to repair it, which was not effective, and a second in 2018 to clean and restructure the tendon. That one took, but by then he had lost almost two years and by the summer of 2019 he was a shell of himself, running a season’s best of 10.54, a time Bromell would be disappointed with in high school.

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By that point, Bromell estimated he had spent roughly $300,000 flying around the world seeking different treatments for his injury (those bills add up when you fly first class internationally). In 2018, Bromell drafted a letter to his agent intending to retire. But for some reason, he kept pushing. In 2019, desperate for a last chance, Bromell flew to Montreal where he went through a workout in front of Andy Burke, a performance therapist who works with renowned sprint coach Rana Reider

(Reider, who also coaches Bracy, is currently under investigation by SafeSport for alleged sexual misconduct and as a result was not issued a credential for Worlds. Nevertheless, The Guardian reports that Reider was in the athlete warmup area before Saturday’s race and refused to leave until police arrived, at which point Reider was told he would be arrested for trespassing should he return to the athlete warmup area.)

Burke put Bromell through a series of basic drills to in a parking lot assess his movement capabilities. Bromell couldn’t even hop on one leg. Bromell still isn’t sure why Reider took a chance on him. 

“The doctor told Rana not to take me,” Bromell said. “He said this kid, his numbers are down, he doesn’t look like he’s going to make a return. His injury is just too bad.”

Statistically, the doctor was right. For elite sprinters, one major injury can cost them their explosiveness forever. Three years in the wilderness may as well be a lifetime. But once Bromell joined Reider’s group at the end of 2019, he put in long hours rehabbing and re-learning how to run. The next year, he broke 10 seconds for the first time in five years, and in 2021 he won the US title, capping the season off with a personal best of 9.76.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve even seen a podium,” Bromell said. “I’m still at a loss for words.”

Three men. Three incredible stories. All now linked forever by one moment when America, once again, stood atop the sprint world.

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Full Race

Results and then 1500 recaps by LetsRun.com.

POS
COUNTRY ATHLETE
MARK
REACTION TIME
1
USA
9.86
0.119
2
USA
9.88
0.118
3
USA
9.88
0.110
4
JAM
9.97
0.154
5
RSA
10.01
0.129
6
USA
10.01
0.104
7
JPN
10.06
0.147
8
CAN
10.07
0.155

##

Men’s 1500: Cooper Teare reveals stress reaction injury, fails to advance

Most of the major players in the men’s 1500 made it safely through to Sunday’s semifinals, but there was one notable casualty: US champion Cooper Teare. Running in 8th place at the bell, Teare was still in the thick of the race for the qualifying spots, but once the pace picked up on the back straight, Teare found himself getting passed and had nothing over the final 200 meters, fading to 13th in 3:41.15 as Australia’s Ollie Hoare won the heat in 3:36.17. After the race, Teare revealed he was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his tibia following USAs and that today was his first time running since the US final on June 25.

The other two Americans, Johnny Gregorek (6th in heat 2 in 3:35.65) and Josh Thompson (2nd in heat 3 in 3:39.10) also advanced automatically, while Olympic champ Jakob Ingebrigtsen also breezed through by finishing 3rd in heat 1. 

Olympic bronze medallist Josh Kerr looked great in winning heat 3 in 3:38.94 while Aussie Stewart McSweyn had his best race of the year as he ran a nearly 10-second sb to win heat 2 in  3:34.91 (previous sb of 3:44.14). *Results

Quick Take: Teare said that he simply missed too much training to be competitive tonight

Teare’s left leg has been bothering him for a month, and he was actually forced to take a week off of running heading into USAs, spending it on the exercise bike or in the pool. But he said that was actually better than his prep for Worlds. The week after USAs, Teare was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his tibia and as a result he did not run a step between the USA final on June 25 and today. He did his best to cross-train but on the final lap, Teare’s lack of running workouts was exposed. 

“You can get as aerobically fit as you can, you can kind of mimic running in that sense, but when it comes to the sharpness and that turnover and that speed, it’s just impossible to get back into that without actually having some consistency on land and doing it on the track,” Teare said. “200 to go, physically my legs were pretty cooked. It was as much as I could do today.”

Teare said he hadn’t talked to his coach Ben Thomas about whether or not he’d still be coaching at Oregon and if not what that would mean for his future.

Quick Take; Josh Kerr looked A LOT better in the first round today than in Tokyo and wanted to thank Brooks for buying him an AC unit

Last year at the Olympics, Josh Kerr only got out of the first round on time. Today, he cruised to a heat win in the second heat and the pointed at his gold sunglasses. When we asked him what that was about – was it a sign he was going for the gold? – he replied “Well to be fair you said it, not me. I think I looked pretty good today and I was myself a little bit.”

Kerr also took time to thank Brooks for buying him a portable AC unit to use in the dorms where the athletes are staying.

“The US team is getting as many advantages as they can with with getting their air conditioning. and really sprucing up their places, but Brooks has been good been good to me and bought me air conditioning so we’ve got a few little tricks up our sleeve. I got myself a mattress (topper). I’m finding ways to get myself clawed back to an even fight.”

He said is the Worlds were in Scotland, they’d do the exact same thing.

Olli Hoare looked great and shared some of his recent workouts including a negative split 57-52 800

Sam Tanner felt good and explained why he went pro and moved back to New Zealand

Jake Wightman says there’s no reason why he can’t be good mates with Josh Kerr and Neil Gourley but also want to beat them in the race

Stewy McSweyn said he’s finally starting to feel like himself again after COVID-related illness derailed him earlier this year

###

Women’s 1500 Semis: St. Pierre goes home as the final is set

For the second year in a row, the USA will have two finalists in the women’s 1500, but it was achieved slightly differently to the Tokyo Olympics. Last year, Elle St. Pierre qualified and Cory McGee was advanced after falling in the semifinals. This year, McGee earned her spot by finishing 5th in the first semi and she’ll be joined by US champ Sinclaire Johnson, who qualified for her first global final by running a controlled race to finish 3rd in the second semi.

The lone American casualty was St. Pierre, who earned a silver in the 3000 at World Indoors in March but hasn’t looked quite the same since getting COVID in the spring. Tonight she finished 11th in her 12-woman heat by running 4:09.84, more than five seconds behind the final time qualifier (who also came from her heat).

The major medal threats, led by Olympic champ Faith Kipyegon and World Indoor champ Gudaf Tsegay, all safely made it through to Monday’s final.

Of the 12 women who started the semis tonight with a seasonal best under 4:02, 9 of them made the final. The other casualties besides St. PIerre (3:59.68 sb) were Aussie Linden Hall (4:00.58 sb, 9th in heat 1 in 4:04.65), and Italy’s Gaia Sabbatin (4:01.93 sb, DQd after fouling Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo).

Sinclaire Johnson is very confident and wants to leave with some hardware, “I came here to medal.”

Cory McGee wants a fast final and reveals she felt much better today than in the first round when she felt kind of tight

An emotional Elle St. PIerre said she didn’t feel well today at all but things had been going fine in practice

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Women’s 10,000 recap: Letesenbet Gidey Gets Her Gold, Outkicks Hellen Obiri, Sifan Hassan to Win 10,000m at 2022 World Championships

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