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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Haven Denney, Brandon Frazier win U.S. pairs title after year off

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KANSAS CITY — Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier returned from a year off to win their first U.S. pairs title on Saturday, despite an error-prone free skate and against a field lacking any previous U.S. champion teams.

Denney and Frazier jumped from second after the short program to total 188.32 points and win by 2.04 over Sochi Olympian Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran. Denney and Frazier’s total score was 23.33 points fewer than last year’s winning score.

Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, who led by 3.96 after the short program, had a strong free skate going until a fall on their throw triple Lutz and finished third Saturday.

Full results are here.

Denney and Frazier were the top U.S. pair in the fall international season by 16 points, taking a silver medal at Skate America.

But Denney struggled on landings in the short program, her right leg wrapped after blowing out her right knee in spring 2015 that caused them to miss the entire 2015-16 season. They also had multiple jumping errors in their free skate, but, unlike the rest of the top five, stayed on their feet Saturday.

“We’re trying harder elements, harder jumps, bigger throws, bigger twists,” Frazier said. “What you see is a couple of ups and downs. This is all building for the next season.”

The U.S. will send two pairs to the world championships in Helsinki in two months, but not definitively the top two finishers from Saturday. The world championships pairs teams will be named Sunday.

Denney and Frazier finished 12th at the 2015 Worlds, after placing second at that year’s U.S. Championships. Castelli and Tran, in their second year as a pair, have no worlds experience together and are ineligible for the 2018 Olympics. Tran, born in Canada, is not a U.S. citizen.

Pairs is the U.S.’ weakest discipline. The last U.S. pair to earn an Olympic or world medal was Kyoka Ina and John Zimmerman at the 2002 Worlds. Eight different pairs have won the last nine U.S. titles.

In 2016, the U.S. pairs finished ninth and 13th at worlds, but both of those teams are out due to injuries.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, the top U.S. pair in international competition in recent seasons, has been out of competition all season due to her September stomach surgery. They have returned to full training.

The Knierims filed a petition to be named to the world championships team, which is selected on a discretionary basis on results from the U.S. Championships and other recent competitions.

“Whatever they decide,” Tran said of a U.S. Figure Skating selection committee, “we’re all for that.”

The 2016 U.S. champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea withdrew before the free skate Saturday after Kayne suffered a concussion in a short-program fall. They placed fifth in the short program.

The U.S. Championships continue Saturday night with the women’s free skate (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Check out NBCsports.com/USFIGS for all-access coverage all weekend.

VIDEO: Tara Lipinski reflects on 1997 U.S. title at age 14

U.S. Championships Pairs
GOLD: Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier — 188.32
SILVER: Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran — 186.28
BRONZE: Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc — 184.41

4. Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay — 173.50
5. Jessica Pfund/Joshua Santillan — 168.90

Tara Lipinski reflects on winning 1997 U.S. title at age 14

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Tara Lipinski says she can remember everything about the 1997 U.S. Championships, when she became the youngest national champion at age 14.

The victory 20 years ago helped catapult her to become the youngest individual Winter Olympic champion of all time a year later.

“It changed my life in that moment [in 1997],” said Lipinski, now an NBC Olympics analyst. “That was when you talk about peaking at the right time. I knew when I stepped off the ice as a national champion, I can be Olympic champion.”

In 1996, Lipinski finished third at age 13 at the U.S. Championships behind Michelle Kwan, who won the first of her nine U.S. titles. Lipinski then struggled at the world championships, taking 15th, while Kwan won.

So Lipinski was certainly not the favorite going into the 1997 U.S. Championships in Nashville.

But she delivered an unforgettable performance, landing seven triple jumps in her free skate, including the first triple loop-triple loop combination, to surpass the short program leader Kwan, who fell twice in her free skate.

“I always got very nervous,” Lipinski said. “Now to be a broadcaster on live television, I always wonder, why do I pick these professions where there’s a lot of pressure? It’s because I love it, and I thrive under it. Looking back then, it was interesting to look back and remember how nervous I was and then that relief and that pure joy. Then realizing what happened in the next year, and how I was able to get to the point that I did still gives me chills. I have to sort of pinch myself.”

For perspective on how long ago that victory was, check out this story from the Chicago Tribune:

Within an hour of Tara Lipinski’s victory at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Saturday night, a “media alert” was on the information table in the press room at the Nashville Arena to announce Lipinski’s site on the Internet.

“Visit America’s hottest sensation at `www.TaraLipinski.com’ ” said the press release from the skater’s agency, Edge Marketing. “Visitors can dive inside Tara’s life by checking out her biography, famiily life stories and other fun facts about Tara (i.e., which of Tara’s talents might pose a threat to Martha Stewart?).”

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