US sprinter on becoming the fastest man in 2021, friendship with Bolt and Blake plus using Tokyo disappointment for 2022 goals
Trayvon Bromell ended 2021 as the fastest human on the planet.
A time of 9.76, set at the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi on September 18, saw the 26-year-old American top the men’s 100m tree and it means that he is now joint sixth with Christian Coleman on the all-time list.
Yet in Tokyo Marcell Lamont Jacobs shocked the world by claiming Olympic gold but perhaps even more impressively helped Italy to become 4x100m Olympic champions. The US team didn’t even make the final even though they have produced by far the greatest strength in depth in sub-10 sprinters this year with 13. Jamaica meanwhile – so long the dominant force in men’s sprinting – had just one and that was Yohan Blake.
Blake is five years Bromell’s senior but both competed in Japan and the pair, incredibly, failed to reach the final. While it wasn’t a surprise that the Jamaican didn’t reach a third consecutive 100m Olympic final, for Bromell it was an almighty shock given he carried what was then a world lead of 9.77 into Tokyo.
The American had gone unbeaten in his first 10 races of the season and this was after completing a comeback from a horrific Achilles tendon injury.
Bromell tells AW how he was “emotionally broken” after crashing out in the semi-finals and that Blake went to console him.
“I’ve got a lot of love from Jamaica. I’ve got a real strong connection with both Usain and Yohan,” the 26-year-old says. “I’ve talked to both of them during this process when I’ve been coming back.
“It’s been humbling and an honour for them to even support me and they’ve helped me through hard times. After the Games, Yohan came and sat down with me in Tokyo and told me how proud he was of my comeback.
“After having all those injuries and battles to coming back and competing at a high level was big for me. One day I’ll look back and know that I had the strength to fight through the toughest of times so it was good to just be an advocate for people that want to keep pushing to obtain your dreams.”
Blake, who recently starred on the front cover of our October magazine, told AW: “For Trayvon Bromell to come back from those two Achilles injuries and run the times that he has is immaculate for him.”
There’s no doubt that we are past the era of male sprinting when you almost knew which athletes would win the major championship medals. Between 2004 and 2017 – the year that Bolt retired – the men’s 100m at an Olympics or world championships was won by only Bolt, Blake, Justin Gatlin or Tyson Gay. That was it. You have to go back to Kim Collins in Paris in 2003 to find one of those four not winning the biggest prizes in the sport.
Bromell emerged towards the latter end of that dynasty and after the then 20-year-old sprinter claimed 100m bronze at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, you’d have been surprised if he didn’t push on and challenge for major honours.
Two Olympics and world championships have come and gone but Bromell hasn’t added to his tally. The unfortunate fact is that after pulling up and being stretchered off the track during the Olympic 4x100m relays in Rio five years ago, the American has been blighted with injuries.
However, by clocking 9.76 and 9.77 this past year, the eyes of the world are back on Bromell again when it comes to the clock. The next step is to translate that to medals.
“I’ve got to be honest, it will take getting a medal [worlds/Olympics] to get me the solidified respect that I deserve,” he says. “The only reason I say that is because I’ve ran the times but everyone else in that top-10 list has got a medal. For example, when Tyson Gay ran 9.69 in Shanghai in 2009 and had a perfect 2.0m tailwind, if that was me the world would’ve been like ‘he couldn’t do that nowhere else’ but as Tyson had multiple medals they didn’t look at it like that.
“Right now from what I’m seeing I don’t think we’ll ever get back to the point where we’ll see these 1-2-3 guys and that’s who it’s down to. It’s not like I ran 9.7 and everyone else ran 9.9, it’s all in a domino effect so it’s not the era of Tyson, Yohan and Usain no more. You’ve not got young guys coming through as well and I’m only 26 while you look at Marcell and Andre [De Grasse], they’re not old.”
On his victory in Nairobi, he adds: “It let me know that I can run these times regardless and it sets me for my new goals in 2022. Obviously my aim is to go 9.6 and then faster. Mentally, I’m in a new place now. I’m not saying this in a disrespectful way but I’ve shown countless times that God’s proven that I’m meant to be here [racing].”
Bromell isn’t just a sprinter. He’s a jack of all trades and has hobbies include photography and hairdressing. His personal story is also remarkable after growing up on the south side of St Petersburg in Florida. The challenges he has faced to get where he is now speaks volumes of not just the athlete but the man.
With a home World Championships in Eugene, Oregon on the horizon, 2022 could be the year where he finally achieves his destiny.
» To read the full interview with Trayvon Bromell – from everything on his childhood and upbringing to the inside track at Tokyo and conversations with Carl Lewis – buy our January magazine from just £5.95