The youngest competitor to run the 200 meter dash in the World Athletic Championships is feeling no pressure as he prepares to take to the blocks tonight.
Justin Gatlin—the fastest 200 meter runner in the world this year—described 16-year-old Japanese athlete Abdul Hakim Sani Brown as “phenomenal” after the high school student pushed him all the way in the first round of the 200 meter heats at the World Championships last night. They will now face each other again in the semi-finals at around 21:30 tonight (Japan Start Time) at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing.
Born in Fukuoka to a Ghanaian father and a Japanese mother, Brown burst on the scene earlier this year when he stormed to victory in both the 100 meters and 200 meters at the Youth World Championships in Cali, Colombia. His time of 20.34 in the longer race broke Usain Bolt’s 12-year record at the World Youth event. Last night Brown ran a similar time of 20.35 to finish second in his heat behind Gatlin.
“My race would have been slower but Sani pushed me so much,” as Gatlin was quoted in a Reuters article. “This young guy from Japan is phenomenal.”
Brown—whose mother persuaded him to focus on athletics rather than football from the age of ten—doesn’t seem fazed to be racing alongside such high-level athletes. The youngest ever sprinter to race in the 200 meters at the Worlds, he told AFP that he “didn’t feel like… [he was] racing against him at all,” when asked what it was like to compete in the same race with the American sprinter.
His hero Bolt will be running in the other semi-final which will feature two other Japanese athletes: Kenji Fujimitsu and Kei Takase, who qualified with times of 20.28 and 20.33, respectively.