Fred Kerley competes at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug.1, 2021 in Tokyo.
TOKYO – Fred Kerley ignored the critics who wondered why one of the top 400-meter runners in the United States, a man ranked No. 8 on the all-time world list, would drop down to the 100 meters in an Olympic year.
“I feel like it’s justified,” said Kerley.
That’s an understatement. He has an Olympic silver medal to back up his decision. And with a personal best of 9.84 seconds in the final Sunday night at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Kerley moved up to a tie for No. 15 on the all-time world list in the 100.
“The future is bright,” said Kerley, who put a finger to his lips as if to say “Shhhhh” when he was introduced. “I executed the race perfectly out of 10 and came up with a silver medal.”
The third man in the event at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field, Kerley extended the Team USA podium streak in the 100 to six straight Games while continuing to lower his time this season.
“When you’re consistent, that means you’re going to drop something amazing at the right time,” said Kerley, 26, who was the 2019 national champion in the 400 with a time of 43.64 seconds, then captured the bronze medal at worlds, plus a gold on the 4 x 400 relay.
“I feel like 2020, y’all gave us a rest year,” he added, “so we all got to recover our bodies, so that was a blessing for all of us.”
Ronnie Baker, who was second at the Trials, placed fifth (9.95 seconds) after running a personal best of 9.83 seconds in the semifinals.
Trayvon Bromell, the Trials champ who came in as the favorite, did not display the same blazing form that has been his trademark this season. He was fourth in his heat on Saturday in 10.05 seconds and then missed the final by one-thousandth of a second after he and another runner both clocked 10.00 seconds in their semi.
The Olympic 100-meter gold medal was actually won by a sprinter who was born in the United States. However, Lamont Marcell Jacobs moved from El Paso, Texas, to Italy with his Italian mother when he was very young.
As the first Italian to win the Olympic 100, Jacobs ran the fastest race of his career, clocking 9.80 seconds. Andre de Grasse of Canada also ran a personal best with a time of 9.89 to repeat as Olympic bronze medalist and Akani Simbine of South Africa, ranked No. 2 in the world, ran 9.93.
After a false start eliminated Zharnell Hughes of Great Britain – who had a world ranking of No. 4 - all of the finishers came in under 10 seconds. Enoch Adegoke of Nigeria, the man who edged Bromell for the last lane in the final, pulled up and did not finish.
“The race was a beautiful race,” Kerley said. “Can’t complain about coming to the biggest stage of my career to come away with a medal.”
He said after the false start, “Once we got back focus, it was just the guts and stuff and whoever can get back to the finish line the fastest.”
Kerley said there were false starts in all three of his rounds, which he attributed to nerves.
“The 100 has got to be the sharpest,” he said. “There’s no room for no mistakes.”
It was a big night for Italy, with Jacobs crossing the finish line and immediately running around the curve to hug countryman Gianmarco Tamberi, who was still celebrating his gold-medal tie in the high jump with Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar.