The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

Men’s 100m Outlook, 2024

Oct 25th, 2023
1:16 pm PDT

The annual post season “break” is almost over. That period of time after the final meet of the year when elite athletes go on vacations, rest, and recharge their batteries. Anywhere from a few weeks for some, to a couple of months for others. Recovery from the wars of the season, before beginning preparation for the next season, which in this case will be an Olympic year!

Ah yes, the Olympics. One of the grandest sporting spectacles on the planet. And as crazy as it sounds, we’re less than 300 days away from the big event! This is why I want to start looking ahead to what I feel will be some of the more interesting “battles” that I expect to play out on the way to Paris. In that regard, I’m going to start with the men’s Sprints. In large part because it’s my opinion that they’ve not gotten the “love” that they deserve. Let me explain.

The thing that seems to excite fans these days, is talk of World Records. That’s because those marketing the sport spend a great deal of time attempting to hype world records and attempts on world records, as opposed to the head to head competition that truly makes this sport great. I’ll speak on that in another post. However, on the women’s side of sprinting, there has been a lot of record talk, as athletes have been inching closer to both the 100m and 200m records. In addition to the fact that hurdles record holder Sydney McLaughlin has stated her intention to pursue the 400m record. All of which has drawn much attention to women’s sprinting – and that is a good thing.

Conversely the men’s sprint records seem rather out of reach. The lone exception being Noah Lyles’ pursuit of the 200m record. Having taken down the American record in 2022 with his stunning World Championships win in 19.31. Which has brought him within a tantalizing .12 sec of the World Record. So while the women have been getting much praise for their sprinting results. I’ve literally heard many complaints over the last year about how “slow” the men’s results have been. Something that I’m going to address before giving my thoughts on the season ahead.

Granted that when comparing results to the records of 9.53 (100m), 19.19 (200m) and 43.03 (400m) every other race ever run does not compare – because these races are outliers! Usain Bolt, the 100m and 200m record holder set both marks in 2009. He competed another EIGHT years and did not come close to his own performances! Making him “slow” for the decade following his world record efforts if we are using the standard that everyone is now imposing. Similarly the 400m record was set in 2016. Record holder Wayde van Niekerk is still competing and has yet to come close to his own world record – though in part because of injury and surgery! So folk need to understand that records, world records, are not standard races! They are one time, one off events. Results that in many cases last for years – sometimes decades – before their efforts are approached again. The athletes competing at the highest levels are not “slow”. The records by which they are being compared are simply outstanding!

For comparison, when looking at the all time performance list for the men’s 100m. Twelve of the thirty fastest individuals in history are currently competing. That’s a third of the fastest thirty men to have ever run 100m! We’ve never seen this kind of depth at this level before. The issue is that everyone, including long time fans of the sport, look at times of 9.90 to 9.99 as common place and mundane – ie slow. Yes, we’ve seen MANY athletes capable of running 9.9x on any given day. That does not make the time, slow. It means we’ve got a lot of individuals that have learned to run very fast.

The other thing that I would like to mention, is how difficult it is to run PB level times with regularity. As previously mentioned with the world record setters, this level of competition is typically a one off event. Without getting too technical, the load on the central nervous system (CNS), muscles, etc, requires a lot of recovery at the highest levels – for everyone regardless of PB. All sprinters have a “ceiling” of performance. Repeating that over and over can be difficult, if not nearly impossible for many. Resulting in a lot of 9.8 & 9.9 runs by athletes capable of 9.7/9.8. Which is why I expect to see some very fast times in 2024. As the Olympic training by all athletes tend to be on a much higher level. So, let’s discuss the top prospects for the upcoming season.

As I stated earlier, a third of the athletes with bests on the top thirty of the all time 100m performance list on the men’s side are still active. That includes three World champions and an Olympic champion. As well as several others that were finalists and semi finalists in those races. Many have yet to reach their biological peaks based on age. I’m going to cover what I consider to be the top eight contenders here. Men that have medaled within the most recent Olympic cycle. As they should be potential medalists in Paris.

Marcel Jacobs, Italy, 9.80pb – Jacobs is the 2021 Olympic champion. A complete surprise as he was not known as a top level sprinter prior to 2021. He’s had difficulty staying healthy since. Having to pull out of the last two World Championships. As well as missing several high level matchups with other top sprinters. He has recently moved to Florida to train with Rada Reiner in his preparation for Paris.

Christian Coleman, United States, 9.76pb – Coleman is a 2x World champion (’17/’19) as well as a finalist this year. He’s the WR holder over 60m and is guaranteed to lead every race he starts thru the first half. He served a whereabout suspension in ’21 and has been working his way back to form since. He looked like his old self in this year’s Diamond League final winning in a seasons best 9.83.

Fred Kerley, United States, 9.76pb – Fred is a 43.65 quartermiler who won bronze in thqt event in 2019. Then shocked the world by announcing that he was switching to the 100m in the Olympic year. Kerley proceeded to make the US team and take silver behind Jacobs. He followed that with gold in ’22. A favorite this year, he failed to make the final. He has changed coaches to Quincy Watts in an effort to improve his fortunes.

Noah Lyles, United States, 9.83pb – Noah has been THE dominant 200m sprinter in the world since graduating high school in 2016 – barely missing the Olympic team. Since then he’s won three world 200m titles and Olympic bronze. He focused on improving his notoriously poor start this year in an attempt to win the sprint double. He was successful winning the 100m and 200m in Budapest. Next, an attempt at the Olympic double.

Trayvon Bromell, United States, 9.76pb – Ah Trayvon. As an old friend/coach of mine used to say. He’s hell when he’s well, but he stays sick so much. Trayvon won bronze in Rio in 2016. Then hurt his Achilles. He spent the next several years trying to heal and get back to elite form. He succeeded in 2022. Making the team and again taking bronze in Eugene. Again in ’23 he hurt his Achilles – ending the year with surgery and a boot. He knows how to rehab. The question is can he be ready in a year.

Letsile Tebogo, Botswana, 9.88pb – Tebogo is the U20 2022 World champion and U20 record holder. He’s since become the African record holder over 200m (19.50) and #6 all time that event. He took the silver medal over 100m in this year’s World Championships as well as bronze in the 200m. Becoming the first African 100m medalist in a major competition. At only 20 years old, he’s the youngest major contender in the 100m.

Marvin Bracy Williams, United States, 9.85pb – Marvin has had an up and down sprinting career. In large part because he attempted to play professional football. He made the 2016 Olympic squad in the 100m. Then spent the next several years bouncing around the NFL. He returned to track full time post Covid and made the ’22 team winning silver. He missed Budapest, and has moved to Dennis Mitchell’s camp in an effort to run in Paris.

Zharnel Hughes, Britain, 9.83pb – After several years in the sport, Hughes emerged as a true threat this year. Setting British records in both the 100m and 200m. Breaking records dating back to the 1990’s. After winning medals in European Championships in ’19/’22, Hughes stepped up this year to bronze at Worlds. He’ll be the top European threat next year.

These are the primary players entering 2024. Of course, history tells us that new talent emerges every year. Note that Marcel Jacobs was unknown at the start of 2021, but became Olympic champion. Similarly this year’s US champion, Cravont Charleston, was an unknown at the beginning of the year. Such is the nature of sport. I can almost guarantee that someone unexpected will be in the Olympic final. That said, five of the above are American with only three allowed to make the team. Meaning at least two finalists aren’t mentioned above, no matter what happens. If I were going to guess, I’d say from among this year’s list of sub 10.00 performers. That could be anyone from among forty athletes! So, expect someone “unknown” to produce something crazy next year. After all, that’s what Olympic years are all about. Crunching the numbers. Evaluating the talent. Then having someone upset the apple cart.

We’re back on schedule people. Next up, the Olympics and Paris 2024. This is going to be a fun year.

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