Usain Bolt’s race for world records. How do Fred Kerley, Noah Lyles, Erriyon Knighton & Co. compare to the great Jamaican?
It has been 13 years since Usain Bolt set the world records in the men’s 100m and 200m at the 2009 World Athletics Championships in Berlin.
Since then, the times of 9.58 and 19.19 seconds have been unattainable for any sprinter who has tried to get close to them, and the Jamaican great has achieved mythical status in athletics.
However, with the USA producing both sprint distances as victors at last year’s World Athletics Championships, the American team is in high form and is yearning for times when they will challenge and maybe even surpass the sprint world records they have long stood for can be over a decade.
Unlike in Bolt’s day, who thrived in the 100m and 200m, the US sprint team has more specialists in its ranks, including Fred Kerley and Trayvon Bromell, who make the 100m their own, and Noah Lyles, Erriyon Knighton and Michael Norman, who excel over the half-lap race.
But how close are these fast Americans to Bolt’s times? And which of them has the best chance of breaking their world records? Find out everything you need to know below.
The race for the 100-meter world record: How are today’s US sprinters doing against Usain Bolt?
While Bolt occupies the top three spots on the list of all-time fastest 100m times, three current American sprinters share 15th on the list with times of 9.76 seconds: Fred Kerley, Trayvon Bromell and Christian Coleman.
With multiple points in the top 15 awarded by the same athletes, these three Americans are the sixth fastest men to ever compete in the blue ribbon sprint.
Bolt has set a time under 9.70 seconds three times, with 9.58, 9.63 and 9.69. The only other men to cross the finish line under 9.70 are USA’s Tyson Gay and Jamaica’s Yohan Blake in 2009 and 2012 respectively.
Kerley, Coleman and Bromell’s fastest times are all on par with Bolt’s fifth-fastest mark at the event, putting them 0.18s off the world record.
While it may seem like each of them has a mountain to climb to reach a 9.58, it’s Kerley’s form that’s most impressive a year ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics.
All of the reigning world champion’s top 10 times have been achieved since 2021 – the year he switched from the 400m to the shorter sprint distances.
Three of his times would also have made it into Bolt’s top 10, compared to two times by his teammate Bromell.
Kerley is also optimistic about his chances of breaking the world record, telling The Independent: “It’s very realistic. Everything is realistic; Bolt, Wayde [Van Niekerk], and all large American sizes. They put the bar up there so we can do that.”
Bromell has been around a lot longer than Kerley, but his races are getting faster and faster.
While he set his fifth fastest time back in 2015, his best four times have all been since 2021.
Whether either of these two can match Bolt remains to be seen. One thing is for sure though, the US 100m team is nearly as strong as ever.
The main American challengers to Usain Bolt’s 200m world record
While the men’s 100m is dominated by Team USA, the current 200m is as exciting as it gets.
Just last year, 25-year-old Noah Lyles set the fourth fastest time in history, with the new American record of 19.31 just 0.12 seconds behind Bolt’s best time of 19.19.
With the Jamaican occupying two of the top four spots on the all-time list, Lyles is also the third fastest 200m sprinter of all time by that mark.
The fifth fastest 200m sprinter in history (with the 10th fastest time) is none other than Erriyon Knighton, who at 19 is still competing in the junior categories.
While Knighton’s 19.49 run has yet to be sanctioned in early 2022, he has already broken the U18 and U20 world 200m records, both owned by Usain Bolt.
Lyles has made the Bolt top 10 eight times, including seven since 2021.
Additionally, both Lyles and Knighton have now won medals on the world stage, with two World Championship gold medals for the former (Doha 2019, Oregon 2022) and a bronze medal for his young rival (Oregon 2022).
Lyles even expressed disappointment at not beating Bolt’s fastest 200m time at last year’s World Championships final, saying, “I wanted to break the world record, so you could say I was more of a little disappointed,” during Knighton told Olympics.com confidently that he believes “under 19” is his future.
However, there is another talented athlete who could also be a topic of conversation, although he is currently better known as a 400m specialist: Michael Norman.
Norman is the same age as Lyles at 25 and his sprint record is impressive.
One of only three men to run under 10 seconds, under 20 seconds for the 200m and under 44 seconds for the 400m, Norman has a best time of 19.70 over the half-lap distance.
Should he, like Kerley before him, decide to focus entirely on the shorter sprints, the reigning 400m world champion has the pace today to challenge the best in the world.