Fred Kerley lands stunning gold as USA men sweep 100m at Worlds

When Fred Kerley was a young boy, sleeping on a pallet with 12 other children in one room in Texas, he dreamed of traveling the world. Instead, on a night of impossible drama in Eugene, he won it over.

In the last desperate strides of the 100m world final, Kerley instinctively arched his chest and pushed his arms back like an aerodynamic Super Man. As he did, fellow countrymen Marvin Bracy and Trayvon Bromell were scrambling, losing their form. It made all the difference as Kerley rose to win gold in 9.86, Bracy taking silver and Bromell bronze in 9.88.

It was the first American free kick on the men’s 100m podium since Carl Lewis, Leroy Burrell and Dennis Mitchell in 1991. But the moment the stadium announcer confirmed the result, the crowd began chanting “USA!” UNITED STATES!’ Kerley was halfway down the backstretch, deliriously celebrating one of the sport’s greatest wealth stories.

The 27-year-old’s bare bones story has reportedly been rejected by a Hollywood screenwriter for pushing the boundaries of the impossible. At two years old, her father was in prison and her mother was also away. That’s how his aunt Virginia adopted him, raised him in Taylor, a small town 30 minutes from Austin, and encouraged him to take flight.

“Me and my brother and sisters were adopted by my Aunt Virginia,” he said after the race. “We had a room. We were 13 in a room. We were on the pallet. At the end of the day, we all had fun, had a great time and are doing great things right now.

“What motivates me is coming from where I come from and not being in the same situation,” added Kerley, who has the words “Aunt” and “Meme” – her nickname for her – tattooed. inside his bicep. “Keep doing great things. You don’t want to be in the same situation as when you were younger.

Along the way, there have been many sliding door moments. Kerley didn’t pursue the sprint until after he broke his collarbone in the last football game of his high school career in Texas. And until 2019 he was a 400m runner, good enough to win a bronze medal at the world championships, until he switched to the 100m and 200m when his ankles hurt at the Olympic trials. Americans of 2021.

In Tokyo, he won a silver medal just 0.04 behind Marcell Jacobs, but that left him with only a burning sense of what could have been. For the past 11 months, Kerley couldn’t help but shout “push” at his image every time he watches the final. This time, however, he was able to dig deeper and time his push to perfection.

“I saw Bracy in front of me,” he recalled. “He dove early. I dived at the right time and got the job done. It’s incredible to wipe the slate clean, the greats did it in 1991 and the greats of 2022 did it today.

It helped, of course, that Jacob was absent from the final, having suffered a leg injury in the innings. While Tokyo bronze medalist Andre De Grasse looked like a shadow of himself to Eugene after injuries and Covid. But Kerley, as he has done so many times in his life, rose to the occasion.

But everyone on the medal podium in Eugene had a story worth hearing. At 20, for example, Bracy was talented enough to win a world silver medal in the indoor 60m, before changing his arm in the NFL – only to break it in his first game in a development league in 2019. .

“I made the decision on the spot to get back on the track,” said Bracy, who had stints with the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks. His silver medal also came despite a ruptured appendix and intestinal blockage, which left him with eight staples from the navel to the pelvic region.

And Bromel? Well, he spent nearly $300,000 between 2016 and 2019 trying to repair a career-threatening Achilles tendon injury after he was kicked out of the Rio Olympics. In 2018, things got so bad that he even wrote a draft letter to his agent saying he was going to retire. He now has a bronze medal around his neck.

“It’s hard waking up sometimes, man,” he said. “In practice, my ankles creak, my hips creak. I look like an old man. But nights like this are worth it.

In another time, these stories would be shouted from the top of the hills. The lingering fear these days is whether enough people are willing to listen. Even in Eugene, which bills itself as Tracktown USA, the 15,000-seat stadium was only 80% full.

But there’s still time for that to change, especially if Kerley can make even more noise by winning more medals in the 200m and 4x100m relays later in the week. It also helps that he’s quite the Renaissance man, with tattoos all over his body and a love of growing vegetables.

“My crops are doing well,” he said with a smile. “Before leaving, I cut some squash. I ate spinach from the garden and it’s amazing,” he said before hitting his left bicep.

And athletics’ new Popeye also has a broader, soul-warming message of hope. “I think everyone is a role model for someone,” he said. “For me, I feel like I’ve been a role model for a lot of people in college. Every day, a group of young people look up to me. If I can do it, they can do it.

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