It’s been 13 years since Usain Bolt set the men’s 100m and 200m world records at the 2009 World Athletics Championships in Berlin, Germany.
Since then, the times of 9.58 and 19.19 seconds have been out of reach of every sprinter who has attempted to get close to them, with the great Jamaican going on to attain mythical status within the sport of athletics.
However, with last year’s World Athletics Championships seeing USA sweeps in both of the sprint distances, the American team are in hot form and hankering for the sort of times that would see them challenge and perhaps even surpass the sprint world records that have stood for well over a decade.
Unlike in the time of Bolt who flourished over 100m and 200m, the US sprint team has more specialists in their ranks, with the likes of Fred Kerley and Trayvon Bromell making the 100m distance their own, and Noah Lyles, Erriyon Knighton and Michael Norman excelling over the half-lap race.
But just how close are these rapid Americans to the times of Bolt? And which of them has the greatest chance of breaking his world records? Find out everything you need to know below.
The race for the 100m world record: How do today’s US sprinters stack up against Usain Bolt?
While Bolt occupies the top three places on the list of fastest-ever 100m times, three current American sprinters sit joint 15th on the list with times of 9.76 seconds – Fred Kerley, Trayvon Bromell and Christian Coleman.
With multiple marks in the top 15 set by the same athletes, these three Americans are the joint-sixth fastest men to have ever raced the blue ribband sprint event.
Bolt has set three times under 9.70 seconds, with 9.58, 9.63 and 9.69. The only other men to have dipped across the line in sub-9.70 are Tyson Gay of the USA and Yohan Blake of Jamaica in 2009 and 2012, respectively.
The fastest times of Kerley, Coleman and Bromell are all on par with Bolt’s fifth-fastest mark in the event, leaving them 0.18 seconds away from the world record.
However, while it may seem like there’s a mountain to climb for any of them to reach 9.58, it is the form of Kerley that is most impressive a year out from the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
Every one of the reigning world champion’s top 10 times have been set since 2021 – the year in which he switched from the 400m to the shorter sprinting distances.
Three of his times would also have made it into Bolt’s top 10, compared to two of his teammate Bromell’s.
Kerley is also bullish about his chances of breaking the world record, telling The Independent: “It’s very realistic. Everything is realistic; Bolt, Wayde [Van Niekerk], and all of the American greats. They put the bar up there for us to do it.”
In comparison to Kerley, Bromell has been in the game for much longer, yet his races are only getting faster.
While he set his fifth-fastest time back in 2015, his top four times have all been since 2021.
Whether either of these two can close on Bolt remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure, the US 100m team is close to as strong as ever.
The main American challengers for Usain Bolt’s 200m world record
If the men’s 100m landscape is dominated by Team USA, the current crop of 200m runners are about 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 off Bolt’s fastest time of 19.19.
With the Jamaican occupying two of the top four spots on the all-time list, this mark also makes Lyles the third-fastest 200m runner ever.
The fifth-fastest 200m runner in history (with the 10th-fastest time) is none other than Erriyon Knighton, who at 19 years old is still racing in the junior categories.
While the 19.49 Knighton ran in early 2022 has not yet been ratified, he has already broken the under-18 and under-20 world records in the 200m, both of which belonged to Usain Bolt.
Lyles has eight times that would have made it into Bolt’s top 10, with seven of those set in since 2021.
Added to this, both Lyles and Knighton have now medalled on the world stage, with two World Championship golds for the former (Doha 2019, Oregon 2022) and one bronze for his young rival (Oregon 2022).
Lyles even expressed his disappointment at not breaking Bolt’s fastest 200m time at last year’s World Championships final, saying: “I was running to break the world record, so if anything you could say I was a little disappointed,” while Knighton told Olympics.com confidently that he believes “sub-19” is in his future.
However, there is another talented athlete who could also enter the conversation, even though he is better known right now as a 400m specialist: Michael Norman.
At 25 years old, Norman is the same age as Lyles, and his record across the sprint distances is impressive.
One of only three men to have posted a sub 10-second 100m, sub 20-second 200m and sub 44-second 400m, Norman has a PB of 19.70 over the half-lap distance.
Should he, like Kerley before him, decide to concentrate fully on the shorter sprints, the reigning 400m world champion has the speed to challenge the best in the world today.