Fred Kerley leads U.S. medals sweep of men’s 100m at track worlds

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Fred Kerley is the world champion in the 100m, completing an extraordinary journey to the title of world’s fastest man.

Kerley, the 27-year-old American who took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, won the crown jewel men’s event of the world track and field championships in Eugene, Oregon, on Saturday night. He prevailed in 9.86 seconds, leading a U.S. medals sweep ahead of Marvin Bracy-Williams and Trayvon Bromell, who each ran 9.88.

It marked the U.S.’ first medals sweep in the world men’s 100m since 1991 and the first in any event at worlds since 2007.

Kerley overtook Bracy-Williams to his left in the final 10 meters.

The same Fred Kerley who was considered a 400m sprinter up until the start of last year. The same Fred Kerley who nine years ago walked onto the track team at South Plains community college. The same Fred Kerley who might never have pursued sprinting had he not broken his collarbone in the last football game of his high school career in Texas.

“I said I was going to do some great things at the junior college,” Kerley said Saturday night. “I speak crazy things. I think I’m still speaking crazy things.”

The same Fred Kerley who has the words “Aunt” and “Meme” tattooed inside his biceps.

TRACK WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule | Results | U.S. Roster | Key Events

“I was two when I first moved in with her, a toddler who didn’t know what was happening around him,” Kerley wrote in 2019. “My Dad ended up in jail, my Mom took wrong turns in life, which meant Aunt Virginia was the only one who could take care of me and my four siblings. Meme – as she is better known – brought up her kids, her brother’s kids and us, with 13 children all living under the same roof. She also brought up the two or three generations after me, and she’s still raising them now – 25 children in total.”

Kerley said that great-aunt Virginia sometimes went without food to make sure he and his siblings ate. ‘Thirteen of us in one bedroom,” he said Saturday night, “on a pallet.”

Kerley experienced physical setbacks as he transformed into a world-class sprinter. As a South Plains sophomore, he felt leg pain midway through anchoring a relay.

“I carried on before falling over the finish line when I realized I’d tore my quad,” he said, according to World Athletics. “I had a hole in my leg, and I could put my finger in the hole.”

Kerley still made it to Texas A&M as a transfer. He broke through as a senior in 2017, lowering his 400m personal best from 45.10 to 43.70, making the world championships team and finishing the year as the world’s second-fastest man in the event.

“I became elite by working my ass off,” Kerley said, according to Olympics.com.

Last year, Kerley raised eyebrows by primarily racing the 100m and 200m. He ultimately chose those two events at Olympic Trials, reportedly dropping the 400m because of an ankle injury.

“My ankle was swollen,” he said, according to Athletics Weekly. “I decided at the last minute to run the 100m and 200m, knowing that I couldn’t go ’round the turns [in the 400m] the way I wanted to.”

It paid off. Kerley took 100m silver at the Olympics in his global championships debut at the distance. He began 2021 with a 100m personal best of 10.49 from his South Plains days. He finished it running 9.84 in the Olympic final.

This year, he ran 9.76 and 9.77 within a two-hour span at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships last month. On Friday at worlds, he ran 9.79, the fastest-ever first-round time at a global championship.

Kerley was asked if this gold medal will change his life.

“Track and field already changed my life,” he said.

Like Kerley, training partners Bracy-Williams and Bromell have their own yearslong stories to this moment.

In 2013, Bracy-Williams left the Florida State football program after his redshirt freshman season to turn pro in track, one year before the Seminoles won their last national title.

He unexpectedly made the 2016 Olympic team, eliminated in the semifinals in Rio, then gave football one more shot. He worked out for the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers in 2017 but did not play a regular season game. He was briefly a member of the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 and the Orlando Apollos of the AAF in 2019, playing in one game and breaking his arm in a league that eventually folded. “I realized right then and there, yeah, my football dream might be over,” he said.

He returned to track competition in 2020, going nearly three years between races. Then he had an appendix rupture and an intestinal blockage, getting eight staples from his belly button on down. Now, he’s on the podium at a global outdoor championships for the first time at age 28.

“My perseverance,” drives me, Bracy-Williams said. “I battled some things that I don’t talk about. I just go away quietly, and I just keep fighting.”

Bromell last year ran the world’s fastest 100m times before and after the Olympics, but in Tokyo was eliminated in the semifinals. Had he won any medal in Japan, it would have marked an all-time rebound. Bromell was wheeled out of the Rio Olympics in a chair. He completed three total races in 2017, 2018 and 2019 due to injuries and was considered finished.

Bromell said that, in 2018, he had a retirement letter written up that he planned to give to his agent.

“I didn’t see no hope,” Bromell, who estimated he spent $300,000 traveling across the U.S. and Europe for medical treatments for his Achilles, told LetsRun.com. “I could barely run.”

Italian Marcell Jacobs, the surprise Olympic gold medalist, withdrew before Saturday’s semifinals due to injuries in both legs. Jacobs has been set back by illness and injuries since winning the world indoor 60m title in March.

Worlds continue Sunday with finals in the women’s 100m and American gold-medal favorites in the men’s 110m hurdles and shot put and women’s pole vault and hammer throw.

Also Saturday, Chase Ealey became the first U.S. woman to win a world title in the shot put. Ealey bounced back from a fifth-place finish at Olympic Trials to notch the second-best throw in American history this season. On Her Turf has more on Ealey here.

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey, the world record holder at 5000m, 10,000m and half marathon, earned her first global gold by taking the 10,000m. Gidey, expelled from school as a teen for refusing to run in P.E. class, held off world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya in a furious, five-woman fight on the final lap of the 25-lap final.

Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan was fourth, a year after taking gold in the 5000m and 10,000m and bronze in the 1500m in an unprecedented Olympic triple and then took an eight-month offseason. On Her Turf has more on the women’s 10,000m here.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

Wang Jianan of China won the men’s long jump, overtaking Olympic champion Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece by four centimeters by leaping from sixth place to first on his sixth and last jump.

Poland hammer thrower Paweł Fajdek became the third person to win five world outdoor titles in an individual event, joining Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka (six titles) and German discus thrower Lars Riedel.

All of the favorites advanced into the women’s 100m semifinals, including Jamaica’s two-time Olympic 100m champions Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.87) and Elaine Thompson-Herah (11.15).

Elsewhere in qualifying, notables who were eliminated included 2019 World high jump bronze medalist Vashti Cunningham, U.S. 110m hurdles champion Daniel Roberts, who crashed while leading his first-round heat, and U.S. Olympic Trials 1500m champion Elle St. Pierre.

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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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