Fred Kerley will break 20 seconds when he runs the 200m at the Maurie Plant Meet in Melbourne on Thursday night. He is the world’s fastest man, so when he states this prediction as fact, there is no reason to doubt him.
Kerley is racing the 200m – against Australia’s fastest man, Rohan Browning, who is stepping up to the longer sprint – and not the 100m partly because it was the 200m gold that eluded him last year at the world championships, when he won the 100m gold. He has his eyes set on the double gold at this year’s world championships in Budapest.
Double gold is all he cares about.
Fred Kerley pictured during an Athletics Australia media event at Lakeside Stadium on Tuesday. Credit:AAP
“Every time I step on the track it should be something fast … last year I came up short in the 200. So double gold is the only thing on my mind at this moment,” Kerley said.
“It should be something fast so come out. Sub-20 [seconds], you should come and see a sub-20 time. Of course every time I step on the track if I’m comin’ on the track I expect something of the best every time.”
The tall, 27-year-old sprinter (he stands 191-centimetres) is not as fixated on breaking Usain Bolt’s world record of 9.58 seconds for the 100m or his 19.19s for the 200m. But he is focused on matching Bolt in winning the double gold.
“Usain Bolt’s world records at the end of the day it’s the target time and we [are] all trying to get there. [Some] day somebody is going to surprise you but, right now, it’s all about double gold.”
For Browning, the 200m run is part of a long-term plan to transition to race both sprint events. He has not run a 200m for a couple of years, so will be running for the experience of chasing the world’s best as much as anything.
“I haven’t done many of them, and traditionally, I’ve been pretty bad at them, to be honest. But obviously running against class guys will hopefully bring out the best. And it’s something I want to focus on more in the future. So, I’m pretty excited for it,” Browning said.
“Over the long-term it’s an ambition. I think it’s good to have both and have the range to be able to run both events. I think the best guys in the world, like Fred, can do it. You know they’ve got the range, they’ve got the speed, maybe not quite the 400 that’s on the agenda.”
Rohan Browning in the 100-metre final at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.Credit:AP
In the 100m, which he will also race, he is starting to wind into the season after his impressive sixth in the final of the 100m at last year’s Commonwealth Games (he ran 10.1s in his opening heat).
Kerley’s journey to be the quickest man in the shortest race is ironically one of the most storied. If Blindside were written now for the track, it would be the story of Fred Kerley.
When he was two, Kerley and his four brothers and sisters went to live with his aunt Virginia – or “Meme” as she is known – in the small town of Taylor, half-an-hour from Austin, Texas. His dad had been sent to jail and, as he wrote of his life for Spikes, his mum “took wrong turns in life”.
Meme already had her own kids, was caring for her brother’s kids, then without hesitation took in Kerley and his siblings. There were 13 kids in all 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,” he wrote for Spikes.
Yet amid this chaos and distraction he excelled. A religious woman, Meme drilled into him and all of his brothers, sisters and cousins the importance of discipline. They went to church every Wednesday and Sunday no matter what. It was the only thing sports training had to make way for.
He started college with ambitions for football, but moved to athletics in his first year after breaking a collarbone at football. He has not looked back, and he has no doubt to whom success is owed.
“My household growing up it was rough, so my aunt kept me grounded and kept me off from doing the wrong thing. So, she kept me going to the right direction,” Kerley said.
“So right now I won’t be here without her. I probably wouldn’t be talking to you right now without her. So basically, I came from where I came from, and I am here now.” He speaks to Meme daily.
“I live in Miami now so go to the beach a lot and I like to garden, farming and stuff like that. Something that attracts peace and peace of mind. I grow a lot of stuff, so I basically eat from my garden, my own chicken, eat everything from my own garden,” he said.
“I actually called [Meme] to tell me something for me to send back to Miami, so I keep in touch with her every day. It’s something I do every day. She called me during the middle of night [to] see how I’m doing, ‘Is everything okay?’”
Right now, as the world’s fastest man, confident he can run under 20 seconds whenever he steps on the track, everything is okay.
Kerley and Browning will compete at the Continental Tour Gold series event at Albert Park on Thursday night. The meet starts at 6.50pm.
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