Trayvon Bromell

Are Trayvon Bromell, Zharnel Hughes the future of sprinting?

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source:  Trayvon Bromell has never heard of Zharnel Hughes, but they combined to put track and field on notice over two days and two countries last week.

The Baylor freshman Bromell ran a 100m heat in 10.02 seconds in Austin, Texas, with a legal wind of +.9 meters per second (+2.0 is the maximum legal wind reading) on Friday.

Hughes, from the Caribbean island of Anguilla, won the 100m final at the prestigious Jamaican Boys and Girls Championships in 10.12 seconds later Friday night (+1.3 wind). He erased Olympic 100m silver medalist Yohan Blake‘s meet record of 10.21. (video here)

Bromell, who is three days older than Hughes, returned for his final at the Texas Relays on Saturday. He ran 10.01 seconds (+1.5 wind), equaling the world junior 100m record despite a minor stumble out of the blocks. (video here)

Bromell and Hughes are both 18, and they are one-two in the (very early) season world rankings for the 100m. A sub-10-second 100m is considered elite, and they are approaching the barrier several years before sprinters usually hit their primes.

The top-end global sprint scene has gone largely unchanged the last five years. Usain Bolt wins just about everything, and Blake and Americans Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin have been his closest chasers.

Bolt is 27. It was revealed he’s been dealing with a foot injury hours before Bromell’s first race Friday, and he might not race until June. It’s hard to believe the injury will cost Bolt too much, but it’s a reminder that time eventually catches up to all sprinters. Bolt has talked about possibly retiring after the 2016 Olympics.

Gay and Gatlin are 31 and 32, aging for 100m sprinters. Blake is 24 and, though he’s coming off an injury-plagued 2013, may not have peaked yet.

The next several years, perhaps the next two before the Rio Olympics, will offer increasing space for new blood in the most prestigious track and field event to the U.S. audience.

So, will we one day look back at Bromell and Hughes dusting their personal bests on the same weekend as significant? Are they the future of sprinting?

“I am very wary of young sprint prodigies,” NBC Olympics track and field analyst Ato Boldon said. “Many of them don’t pan out.”

At first glance, Bromell and Hughes are very different. Bromell is 5-foot-9 and runs with a headband. Hughes is 6-foot-3, two inches shorter than Bolt, to whom he has drawn many comparisons.

Bromell’s success is startling given his track record of injuries. He broke his left knee in eighth grade doing backflips, broke his right knee and forearm in ninth grade playing basketball and in 10th grade cracked a hip during a race.

“I was pretty much out like three years,” Bromell said.

Bromell was a slot receiver at (St. Petersburg, Fla.) Gibbs High School and said he drew interest from schools such as West Virginia. But he gave up football his senior year to focus on sprinting.

He won the Class 3A state 100m title. In another meet, he became the first U.S. high school sprinter to run the 100m in under 10 seconds, though the wind was over the legal limit.

Bromell was named the Gatorade National Track Athlete of the Year and was one of six finalists for the Gatorade Male Athlete of the Year, won by basketball player Andrew Wiggins.

Bromell chose Baylor, a school known for its 400m tradition, because of its loyalty to him during recruitment. Coaches call him a “track rat” who studies film and asks what he could have done better in the immediate aftermath of winning races.

Clyde Hart is in his 51st year at Baylor. His pupils included Olympic champions Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner. The 2004 Olympic 400m champion Wariner is still active and has been a bit of a mentor toward Bromell.

Hart has seen all of Bromell’s collegiate races and compared him to Harvey Glance, who was 5-foot-8, 148 pounds and fourth in the 1976 Olympic 100m.

source:
Trayvon Bromell’s next race will be a 100m at the Florida Relays on Friday. Will he break 10 seconds? (Photos courtesy Baylor Athletics)

“I don’t really like to put a kid in a box and say we expect this or that,” Hart said. “I think he’s going to get better. He’s going to get a lot stronger. In my opinion most sprinters don’t get their prime until 24, 25 years old. He’s only 18. He’s just a fast kid. You can see it. His mechanics are good.”

Bromell went into last weekend’s Texas Relays expecting fast times at a meet known for high winds.

“I wanted to shock the world,” said Bromell, who owns more than 50 pairs of shoes. “Push the limit and go under 10 [seconds].”

The heat time of 10.02 stunned his coaches. They said it was more impressive than his 10.01 the next day. They came to Austin hoping for something in the 10.1-10.2 range to better his personal best of 10.27.

Baylor assistant coach Michael Ford, who recruited Bromell, said the freshman can improve mechanically, citing not only his small stumble in the final but also taking steps to the side out of the blocks and not running hard through the finish in Texas. He could have run a legal 9.9.

“He’s humble, but he’s cocky at the same time,” Ford said. “He knows his ability. He’s always willing to learn.”

About 1,500 miles from Austin, the Anguillan Hughes became the star of the revered Jamaican Boys and Girls Championships last weekend, commonly referred to as “Champs.”

Hughes’ 10.12 in the 100m final Friday may not have been as fast as Bromell, but was arguably more impressive given the increased pressure of the meet.

Hughes trains in Jamaica under the same coach as Bolt, but he was born and raised in Anguilla, a British overseas territory in the Lesser Antilles that’s 16 miles long and 3 miles wide. Anguilla does not have its own Olympic Committee, so Hughes would have to compete for Great Britain at an Olympics, if he continues to progress.

The Telegraph points out that Hughes’ mother is Jamaican, so he could apply for citizenship and represent Jamaica at an Olympics.

“It is something I always think about,” Hughes told the BBC. “I think that [competing for Great Britain] would be the best choice.

“It is something I need to think about before I jump to conclusions and something I have to talk to my coaches about.

“It would be a great experience to represent Great Britain at an Olympics, at the same time representing Anguilla.”

It’s not a decision Hughes would have to make any time soon. He can represent Anguilla at this summer’s Commonwealth Games and the World Junior Championships.

Bromell is also targeting the World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore., in late July, where the American and Anguillan could finally become familiar with each other.

Caution is key, though.

“For every Sanya [Richards], Bolt and Allyson Felix, there are 1,000 you don’t see,” Boldon said. “The onus now is on the coaches to not have them become a statistic.”

Boldon would know. His Trinidad and Tobago countryman, Darrel Brown, first set the world junior 100m record that Bromell matched on Saturday. Brown held just about every age-group record from 13 to 18, and ran his 10.01 at the 2003 World Championships, where he won a silver medal at age 18.

Brown is now 29 but without the senior success of Bolt, Blake, Gay or Gatlin. His personal best is 9.99, set when he was 20, and he was eliminated in the quarterfinals at Beijing 2008 in his only Olympic 100m appearance.

“I’m not so sure tha these kids are going to follow in those sort of footsteps, but the reality is that being fast at a young age is fine, but it’s not an automatic guarantee of success at the next level,” Boldon said.

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Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross win World Series of Beach Volleyball

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Rio bronze medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross bounced back from an Olympic upset to win the biggest annual tournament in the U.S. on Sunday.

Walsh Jennings and Ross captured the Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball title in Long Beach, Calif., for the second time in three years. They beat Spanish pair Liliana Fernández and Elsa Baquerizo 21-16, 21-16 in the final.

“We love those girls so much, they are dear friends of ours,” Walsh Jennings said. “We wanted to beat them down.”

Absent from Long Beach were Olympic gold medalists Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany and silver medalists Ágatha and Bárbara of Brazil.

Walsh Jennings and Ross, who lost to Ágatha and Bárbara in the Olympic semifinals, dropped a total of two sets in seven undefeated matches this past week.

They earned their fifth international title of the year after winning none in 2015, last season shortened by Walsh Jennings’ fifth right shoulder surgery.

In the men’s final, Brazil’s No. 2 pair, Pedro and Evandro, beat top U.S. pair Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena 19-21, 21-17, 15-9.

Olympic champions Alison and Bruno of Brazil did not compete in Long Beach.

The beach volleyball season continues with the FIVB World Tour Finals in Toronto in two weeks.

MORE: Tough for Misty May-Treanor to watch Kerri Walsh Jennings in Rio

Monica Puig’s unlikely Olympic tennis gold reminded her of ‘Miracle’ scene

Monica Puig
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NEW YORK (AP) — Monica Puig gazed out at her fellow Puerto Ricans jamming the parade route, and in their eyes she saw hope.

They hailed her with “a sense of satisfaction,” she recalled Saturday, “and a sense of belief that things are going to get better.”

Throughout her stunning run to the Olympic tennis gold medal, Puig embraced the symbolism of each upset victory. An economic crisis is devastating the island of her birth, and she appreciated that if she could prove the impossible is possible, that message would reverberate far beyond sports.

“If Puerto Rico channels that same energy and belief that things will get better and working for the better of the island, the better of the community, things will improve,” Puig said four days after the U.S. territory honored its Olympic team and, above all, its first gold medalist.

“I really hope I gave them a lot of confidence moving forward,” she added, “that things will actually get better.”

The world’s 34th-ranked women’s tennis player met with a roomful of reporters Saturday, exactly two weeks after she beat Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber in three sets in the final in Rio de Janeiro. Poised and philosophical in ways that bely her age, the 22-year-old realizes some people deem her gold medal “a fluke.”

After all, Puig has never made it past the round of 16 at a major. And at the U.S. Open, which starts Monday, she’s never advanced beyond the second round. Puig is already bracing herself for the reality that her run at Flushing Meadows could fall well short of what took place in Rio.

“I’m 22 years old. There’s still a long way for me to go, a long stretch of career,” she said. “If anything happens, any kind of slip-up, it’s not really going to be a big deal, because I have a process and I have a long-term view of where I want to go.”

Which isn’t to say she expects a slip-up.

“I know that the Olympics wasn’t a fluke for me, because I have worked very hard to get to where I am,” Puig said. “I know the hours and the tears and the sweat and everything that’s been put into my practices. It’s been very difficult for me.

“But that moment, nobody will be able to take away.”

Even she considers that Olympic moment to be like something out of a movie script. When spectators chanted “Si se puede!” (“Yes you can!” in Spanish) during the final against the second-ranked Kerber, Puig flashed back to a scene from the film “Miracle” about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

With fans roaring “U-S-A!” coach Herb Brooks tells his players: “Listen to them. That’s what you’ve done.” As Puig said Saturday, “I needed to listen to the crowd.”

Her gold might not have been quite as unlikely as the Miracle on Ice, but it wasn’t too far off. The night after her victory, Puig slept with the medal on her nightstand, waking up every few hours to make sure it was real. She still feels the need to check up on it during the day.

“I see the videos and I’m like, ‘Did this really just happen?'” Puig said.

When they showed the clip of her medal ceremony when she was honored in Puerto Rico, she started crying again. Through it all, she insisted Saturday, she felt she kept her focus, knowing the U.S. Open was looming.

After Rio, Puig spent some time with her family in Miami, where she lives. Then it was on to the island “where the big party was waiting.” It’s been hard to squeeze in sleep and alone time and practice — all the things she needs to recover from one big event and prepare for another.

Puig faces 60th-ranked Zheng Saisai, who upset Agnieszka Radwanska at the Olympics, in the first round Monday. She originally wasn’t seeded at Flushing Meadows, which meant she could have faced a top player in her opening match, but she moved up to the final seed when Sloane Stephens withdrew because of an injury Friday.

It’s the first time Puig has been seeded at a major, and in what was a breakthrough season even before her golden moment, she’s starting to grow comfortable with those sorts of roles.

“I feel like I finally understand what I’m doing when it comes to tennis,” she said.

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