Athletes in the Olympic 100 metres are known for their big personalities, radiating the confidence that comes with being the fastest men on Earth, but American sprinter Trayvon Bromell is ready to let his feet do the talking in Tokyo.
Humble and hungry, Bromell’s unflappable nature will serve him well at the Games as he fights for retired Olympic champion Usain Bolt’s throne.
His rivals include fellow American Ronnie Baker, who won the Diamond League meet in Monaco earlier this month in 9.91 seconds while Bromell finished a disappointing fifth.
Compatriot Fred Kerley, the 400m bronze medallist from the 2019 world championships, is also in the hunt after focusing on the sprints this year.
Rio 100m bronze medallist Andre de Grasse from Canada and South African Akani Simbine, who posted a scorching 9.84 earlier this month, will also lay claim to the crown.
While some sprinters like to build themselves into a frenzy before a race, Bromell remains a picture of calm, describing himself as a “silent killer”.
He has been silently plotting his return to the Olympic stage since the devastation of 2016 when he finished eighth in the 100m then tore his Achilles in the 4×100 relay and had to be carted off the track.
After surgery and rehab, Bromell linked up with renowned coach Rana Reider – who also works with Canadian De Grasse – late in 2019.
“When I came to Rana’s group I couldn’t even hop on one leg, like, I definitely couldn’t run,” said the 26-year-old, who won last month’s U.S. trials in 9.80. “It was bad-bad. So we had a lot of work to do.”
He put up a 9.90 in 2020, the product of his “no days off” approach to training, and followed that up with a world-leading 9.77 this year, though he refuses to think of himself as a favourite with the Games fast approaching.
“When you put yourself into that bubble, into that box, a lot of expectations come into it,” he told reporters. “When you start living in other people’s world then you get off of your own plan.”
Instead he is relying on what he says were his “humble beginnings” in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the challenges he endured, including losing his father in 2015 when he was 19-years-old.
“When you grow up hard, it’s hard to kind of be nervous in a sport that’s not really confrontational,” said Bromell, who cruised to victory in Gateshead, England at the final Diamond League meeting before Tokyo.
“That’s why when you all see me race a lot of guys who do all [this] crazy stuff before the race – like the, you know, the intimidation stuff … I don’t look phased because I’m not.”