Fred Kerley drops stunning gold as US men’s 100m sweep on world stage | game

When Fred Kerley was a boy, sleeping on a cot with 12 other children in a single room in Texas, he dreamed of traveling the world. Instead, in a night of improbable drama in Eugene, he won it.

In the final desperate stride of this world 100m final, Kerley instinctively thrust his chest out and thrust his arms back like an aerodynamic superman. As he did so, his teammates, Marvin Bracey and Trayvon Brommel, were tired, battered and out of shape. In a blur, the 6-foot-3 Kerley somehow rose to the line to take gold in 9.86 seconds, with Bracey taking silver and Bromell bronze in 9.88.

It was the first American clean sweep in the men’s 100m since Carl Lewis, Leroy Burrell and Dennis Mitchell in 1991. But long before the stadium announcer confirmed the result, the crowd chanted ‘America! America!’ Kerley charged straight back and celebrated one of the sport’s great rags-to-riches stories.

How Hollywood rejected the 27-year-old’s story would stretch the boundaries of the impossible. At the age of two his father was in prison and his mother was absent because she had taken “wrong turns in life”. So his aunt Virginia adopted him and his four siblings and raised them with eight of her own under a tiny roof in Taylor, a small town 30 minutes outside of Austin. It was a tough upbringing, but Kerley was always encouraged to dream and soar.

“Me and my brothers and sisters were adopted by my aunt Virginia,” he later explained. “We had one bedroom. There were 13 of us in one bedroom. We were in palanquins. At the end of the day, we all had fun, we were happy, and now we’re doing great things.

“What motivates me is that I’m not in the same predicament I came from,” added Kerley, who has ‘Aunt’ and ‘Meem’ – her pet name – tattooed on her biceps. “Keep doing great things. You don’t want to be in the same position as you were when you were a child.”

Touchingly, he now even talks to his parents. “Every day,” he said. “What happened before will not happen now.”

There are many sliding doors moments along the way. Kerley wanted to be an American football player and only switched sports after breaking his collarbone in the final game of his high school career. And until 2019 he was a 400m runner, good enough to win a bronze medal at the world championships, before switching to the 100m and 200m when he sprained his ankle at the 2021 US Olympic Trials.

A month later he won the 100m silver medal in Tokyo – but a disappointing 0.04 behind Marcel Jacobs. For the past 11 months, Kerley couldn’t stop himself from yelling “Push” whenever he saw video of the finals. In Eugene, however, that push was timely.

“I saw Bracy in front of me,” he recalled. “He dived early. I dived in time and got the job done. It’s amazing that the 1991 giants and the 2022 giants get a clean sweep today,” he said.

It certainly helped that Jacobs missed the final due to a leg injury in the heats. Tokyo bronze medalist Andre de Grasse was a shadow of his former self after injuries and a bout with Covid. But Kerley, as he has done so many times in his career, seized the day.

But everyone on the medal stand had a story worth amplifying. Bracy, for example, ran in the 2016 Olympics before getting his hands on the NFL — and then broke it in 2019 in his first game in the developmental league.

“I decided right then and there to get back on track,” explained Bracey, who had spells with the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks. “But more challenges arose. His silver medal came after a ruptured appendix and bowel obstruction that left him with eight staples from his belly button to his groin.

And Bromel? Well, he spent $300,000 from 2016 to 2019 to repair a severely damaged Achilles tendon and was ruled out of the Rio Olympics. Things got so bad in 2018 that he wrote a draft letter to his agent announcing his retirement. “Sometimes it’s hard to wake up,” he said Saturday night. “My ankles blow up in practice, hips blow up. I sound like an old man. But nights like this make it all worth it.

In another era, these stories would be absorbed into the mainstream of American sports and life: amplified and celebrated. Not anymore. Even in Eugene, which bills itself as Tracktown USA, the 15,000-seat Hayward Field stadium is probably only 80% full.

There is still time for things to change, especially if Kerley wins more medals in the 200m and 4x100m relays. It certainly helps that he’s very much a renaissance man, with tattoos all over his body and a penchant for growing vegetables. “My crops are really good,” he said. “Before I left, I chopped up some squash. I ate some spinach from the garden and it was amazing.

He slapped his left hand and smiled. But athleticism’s new Pope isn’t just thinking about adding more muscle to the track. He also wants to inspire the next generation. “Every day a bunch of young people see me,” he said. “If I can, they can.”

What a story. What a performance. What a man too.

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