Teen sprint sensation tipped to become Japan’s Bolt

Teen sprint sensation tipped to become Japan’s Bolt

TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
Teen sprint sensation tipped to become Japan’s Bolt

Japan’s Yoshihide Kiryu is on course to become the first native Asian to run 100 meters under 10 seconds. AFP photo

A Japanese teenager will this weekend bid to become the first native Asian to run 100 meters under the 10-second barrier, joining an exclusive world club dominated by black sprinters.

Yoshihide Kiryu, 17, is already the joint world record holder for juniors, having clocked 10.01 seconds, becoming one of three men under-20 to have run that fast. The high-school student says he is confident he can shave his time to become Japan’s quickest sprinter, but has his eyes on a greater prize -- taking on Usain Bolt.

“It’s like a dream. Honestly, I am surprised,” he told Japanese media after his show-stopping time in the 100m heats at the Mikio Oda Memorial meeting on April 29, his first race with seniors.

He won the final in 10.03, beating London Olympic semi-finalist Ryota Yamagata, 20, by one hundredth of a second.

“Having come this far, I want to become the first [Japanese] to run under 10 seconds,” he said. “If I tune up thoroughly, I can run 10.00.”

With his time at the top of this year’s senior world list, Kiryu’s next chance to beat the 10-second barrier will come on Sunday at the Seiko Golden Grand Prix, the third leg of the 15-round IAAF World Challenge series.

At Tokyo’s National Stadium, he will race against seven others, three of whom have run under 10 seconds, Americans Mike Rodgers (9.85) and Mookie Salaam (9.97) and Bahama’s Derrick Atkins (9.91).

All eyes on him

Kiryu burst onto the scene last year, twice breaking the world youth 100m best - first with 10.21 in October, then with 10.19 one month later when he was 16.

Kiryu’s junior world record performance on April 29 brought him level-pegging with Trinidad and Tobago’s Darrel Brown, who logged 10.01 in 2003, and American Jeffery Demps, who clocked the same time in 2008. Both were 18 at the time.

But dipping under 10 seconds has been achieved by only about 80 male runners, nearly all of them of West African descent.

In 2010, Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre became the first white European to duck under 10 seconds, clocking 9.98.

But Kiryu’s eyes are fixed on multiple world and Olympic sprint champion Bolt, whose 100m world record of 9.58 has stood since August 2009.

“I want to run alongside Bolt (at the worlds) and see how he is different from me,” said Kiryu.
Kiryu takes five steps a second, compared with Bolt’s 4.6-4.7. But his stride is shorter: Bolt’s step covers nearly three meters toward the finish line.

“There is a 100 percent chance that the time will dip below 10 seconds this year,” said Ito, the sprint director at the Japan Association of Athletics Federations.

“He will get better still if he experiences the worlds.”