EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Fred Kerley led the first American sweep of the 100 metres at the worlds in 31 years Saturday, barely edging teammates Marvin Bracy and Trayvon Bromell to stamp a red-white-and-blue exclamation point on the first championships ever in the United States.
Kerley leaned at the line to finish in 9.86 seconds and beat both Bracy and Bromell by 0.02 seconds. The difference between second and third was 0.002.
It marked the first American sweep at worlds since Carl Lewis, Leroy Burrell and Dennis Mitchell went gold-silver-bronze at the 1991 championships in Tokyo.
“We said we were going to do it and we did it,” Kerley said in the on-track interview, moments after the crowd finished chanting “USA! USA! USA!”
This All-American burst of speed came moments after fighter jets presaged the evening's main event by blazing over Hayward Field, the stadium renovated to bring the championships to the U.S. for the first time. The race itself brought back memories of times when the U.S. dominated the track game in the same way Jamaica and Usain Bolt did for nearly a decade starting in 2008.
It is also certain to ramp up expectations for next weekend's 4x100 relay, an event with which the U.S. has had notorious and long-running trouble.
Kerley, the 27-year-old Texan, came into Eugene as the favorite — the only sprinter to crack 9.8 seconds this year. His reward is a title in an event he didn't start investing time in until the leadup to last year's Olympics.
He finished second last year to Italian Marcell Jacobs, who came from out of nowhere to capture the gold in Tokyo.
But a glute muscle has been bothering the Italian this season, and when a “DNS” — did not start — showed up by his name in the semifinals earlier in the evening, the field began clearing. It opened up further when Canadian Olympic bronze medalist Andre De Grasse, diagnosed with COVID-19 just 2 1/2 weeks ago, finished fifth in the same heat.
That left four Americans — defending world champion Christian Coleman was the other — in the eight-man final for only the second time (2015 was the other). They were all among the world's top nine this season, with only sixth-ranked Akani Simbine of South Africa looming as a major threat.
Coleman started fast but finished sixth.
Even so, there was less doubt about the sweep than there was about the order. Fourth-place finisher Oblique Seville was 0.09 seconds behind the medalists.
Toronto sprinter Aaron Brown finished eighth in 10.07. Teammate Andre de Grasse, coming off a foot injury and two bouts of COVID, ran a 10.21 in the semifinal heats and did not qualify for the final.
Kerley overcame the fourth-slowest start but kept closing ground as he covered the 100 meters. He was in Lane 4, one lane inside of Bracy, who had a body-length lead on his taller opponent with about 40 meters to go. Kerley closed and powered through the line, while Bracy leaned in at the finish. Bromell, who was starting on the outside in Lane 8, was in the photo finish, as well.
Kerley kept running through the finish line and into the turn. It took about 20 seconds for the result to come up. When it did, he raised his hands, then — in a new twist at these worlds — had a presenter hang the gold medal around his neck.
Joining him on the medal stand were Bracy, who gave up football at Florida State to pursue track, and Bromell, who went into last year's Olympics as a favorite but didn't make the final. He was in tears after receiving his bronze.
Only a few minutes earlier, Chase Ealey won America's first gold medal of the meet — in women's shot put. Canadian Sarah Mitton finished fourth with a throw of 19.77, missing the podium by the slimmest of margins.
Other champions crowned were Wang Jianan of China in men's long jump and Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia in a women's 10,000. In that race, Sifan Hassan, who won medals in the 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 in Tokyo last year, finished fourth.
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Eddie Pells, The Associated Press