The field for the men’s 100-meter dash had been called the best and most competitive in the history of the tournament.
But at the end of the day, the national record holder proved that he belongs in a different class than the others.
Abdul Hakim Sani Brown showcased a convincing performance, winning the 100 final in 10.02 seconds at the Japan National Championships at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium on Friday night.
The 20-year-old phenom shaved 0.03 seconds off the previous meet record, which he shared with Ryota Yamagata and Nobuharu Asahara, for his second national title before a crowd of 14,100.
Former national record holder Yoshihide Kiryu placed second in 10.16, while Yuki Koike, the 2018 Asian Games gold medalist in the 200, was third in 10.19. The 2016 winner, Aska Cambridge, finished last in 10.33.
For Sani Brown, it was a typical slow start in the race. But he displayed his signature late-race comeback and ended up building a gap between Kiryu and the other sprinters.
Sani Brown regretted his own takeoff, but gave himself credit for his performance during the rest of the race. He said that he thought he’d won it past the midpoint or so, running on a track that was a little wet due to rain that stopped a few hours before the race.
“I didn’t deliver a good start as usual,” Sani Brown said with a bitter smile. “But I didn’t panic and was able to accelerate after that, which was good. But I know I have to improve my start, otherwise I won’t be able to compete on par at the global stage.”
The national championships serves as a part of the trials for this fall’s IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha. Sani Brown, who had already posted a qualification mark for worlds, has now booked his spot in Doha thanks to this victory.
The University of Florida sophomore broke Kiryu’s national record, clocking 9.97 at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Texas, earlier this month. He and Kiryu are the only two Japanese men that have run under 10 seconds in the discipline.
Kiryu, 23, looked for his second 100 title at nationals in five years but fell short. He was disappointed with the result but he said he was happy the sport is attracting attention from the public.
“(Sani Brown) has the best acceleration late in the race in Japan,” Kiryu said. “I certainly wanted to win, but there’s still a gap with him.”
Ryota Yamagata, last year’s winner, withdrew from the meet due to a collapsed lung.
Sani Brown, Kiryu, Koike and Iizuka are also scheduled to race in the 200, which will be held on Saturday and Sunday.