Elliott Denman, a 1956 Olympian in the Race Walk, wrote this column on Fred Kerley and his amazing talents! Elliott has written for American Athletics, American Track & Field, and RunBlogRun since 1990. His insights are unique, and his style is like an ee cummings poem.
The Truth is this: Elliott Denman gets it, and he uses track history to show us how to appreciate the enormity of what Fred Kerley, now World Champion at 100 meters, has done.
EUGENE, OREGON – Fred Kerley did a lot more than winning a historic gold medal by leading a 1-2-3 Team USA sweep in the men’s 100-meter final that featured Day Two action of the 18th World Championships at Hayward Field.
A lot more.
I’ve been watching the world’s fastest men in action for decades and decades – everybody from Barney Ewell and Eddie Conwell and Mel Patton to Andy Stanfield, Steve Williams and Carl Lewis and Linford Christie and Justin Gatlin and Maurice Greene and Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt. And lots more.
But Kerley’s 9.86 Saturday night triumph over countrymen Marvin Bracy and Trayvon Bromell also clinched – to me, anyway, and some purists are sure to disagree – the title of “greatest all-around sprinter in track and field history.”
I define “greatest all-around sprinter” as a supreme achiever – at one time or another, over the outdoor version of the sport’s three shortest distances – 100 meters, 200 meters, and 400 meters.
He’s done it the hardest possible way – as a former 400 specialist dropping all the way down to the 100.
Back in his 400-meter days at Texas A&M and beyond, he reigned as an NCAA, USATF National, and Diamond League champion over the one-lap distance. He blazed some brilliant 200s in those days, too.
But in a decision that astounded many of the sport’s devotees, Kerley switched down to the 100.
His rationale: if he wanted to be rated a king of speed, he needed to show the world what he could do at the 100, too.
Well, now, it’s a clearcut case of point proven.
With personal bests of 9.76 (100), 19.76 (200), and 43.64 (400) now, he tops – in my book, anyway – all the great dashers whose names dot the sport’s history books.
Some were brilliant at both 100 and 200. Others were dominant at 200 and 400. But no one’s ever
raced the triple the way Kerley now has.
Usain Bolt? Even with his 9.58 and 19.19 100/200 world records, he never ran a serious 400. Oh, he once did jog a 45.28.
Michael Johnson? Sure he blazed world marks at 200 (19.32) and 400 (43.18). But he never got serious about the 100.
Current 400 standout Michael Norman has 19.70 (200) and 43.49 (400) credentials. But he’s never bothered much with the 100.
The world 400 record-holder, Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa, has zoomed a lap in 43.03. But his 100s and 200s have been afterthoughts.
Tommie Smith may have been the best of the best older timers, with career marks of 10.34, 19.83, and 44.64. But he focused on the shorter sprints, not the longest ones.
“We (he, Bracy, and Bromell) said we were going to do it….and we did it,” said the delighted Kerley.
Some American fans even were predicting a 1-2-3-4 USA finish. But defending World Champion Christian Coleman messed that one up by finishing sixth, squeezed back of Kerley, Bracy, and Bromell by Jamaica’s Oblique Seville and South Africa’s Akani Simbine.
The 1-2-3 was a smashing performance that restored smiles to long-suffering (through the era of Usain Bolt’s dominance) American track fans’ faces.
It was triply smashing to all those who’ve been following their career of Kerley all these years.
He’s atop my list for sure. I recommend him to your list with equal emphasis.