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Who is the next Usain Bolt? The sprinters hoping to fill the void as the world’s fastest man

For almost a decade now, the world of sprinting has been dominated by one man: Usain Bolt. With the return of the Diamond League in Doha on Friday evening, the post-Bolt era begins in earnest with a host of men hoping to step into his shoes and claim the title of the ‘fastest man in the world’.

The field is wide open, but these are the men sitting top of the pile:

The leading candidates

Christian Coleman

Age: 22
Country: United States
100m PB: 9.82sec
200m PB: 19.85sec

The man seemingly best placed to seize the mantle, Coleman dominated the American collegiate circuit before signing off from education with an eye-opening 9.82sec over 100m last June that made the world sit up and take note. Arriving at the London World Championships as one of a handful of medal hopefuls, he burst out of the blocks in the 100m final and looked nailed on to win a breakthrough title, only for fellow American Justin Gatlin to relegate him to silver in the final few strides. Since then he has blitzed his way to a phenomenal indoor 60m world record of 6.34sec and won the world indoor title in March. The man to beat.

Christian Coleman
Christian Coleman has flourished since stepping up on the international stage CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Andre De Grasse

Age: 23
Country: Canada
100m PB: 9.91sec
200m PB: 19.80sec

From the moment he turned professional at the back end of 2015 and signed a multi-million pound deal with Puma (Bolt’s premier sponsor), big things have been expected of De Grasse. By then he had already won a world 100m bronze and he went on to win medals over both 100m and 200m at the Rio Olympics. The 2017 campaign saw him begin with a wind-assisted 100m run of 9.69sec Stockholm, but a hamstring injury then forced him to miss the World Championshipsand recent Commonwealth Games. He has just returned to competition after nine months out.

Justin Gatlin

Age: 36
Country: United States
100m PB: 9.74sec
200m PB: 19.57sec

To many, he is the scourge of global sprinting, but Gatlin has continued to ignore the naysayers and prove himself a force to be reckoned with despite his advancing years. Since returning from a four-year ban (for his second doping violation) in 2010, Gatlin has made two Olympic podiums behind Bolt, before ruining the Jamaican’s farewell in London last summer when claiming the world 100m title. His season’s bests suggest age is finally catching up with him as he is not getting any quicker, but few can compete with him on the biggest stage.

Yohan Blake

Age: 28
Country: Jamaica
100m PB: 9.69sec
200m PB: 19.26sec

In many ways it is hard to believe Blake is still only 28, considering how long he has been talked about in the upper echelons of world sprinting. The Jamaican broke 10 seconds for the first time in 2010 and took advantage of Bolt false-starting to win the world 100m title a year later. Two Olympic silvers followed at London 2012, but persistent injuries have meant he has been unable to hit such heights ever since. Fourth-place finishes over 100m at the last Olympics and World Championships suggest he is back on the rise again, although he was way below par in only winning Commonwealth bronze last month.

Yohan Blake
Yohan Blake lost out to Akani Simbine at last month’s Commonwealth Games CREDIT: AFP

The second wave

Akani Simbine

Age: 24
Country: South Africa
100m PB: 9.89sec
200m PB: 19.95sec

Quietly, unnoticed by most of those outside of the sport, Simbine has been creeping his way to the very top of the global sprinting ranks. The South African broke the national 100m record with his 9.89sec run in 2016 and then went on to finish fifth at the Olympics and World Championships. His impressive consistency was evident when breaking 10 seconds in eight occasions last year. A hugely likeable character, he took advantage of Blake’s slip-up to claim the Commonwealth 100m title last month.

Wayde van Niekerk

Age: 25
Country: South Africa
100m PB: 9.94sec
200m PB: 19.84sec

Will Van Niekerk ever win a global 100m title? Almost certainly not. But the South African is so talented that you get the impression he might just be able to manage it if he put his mind to pursuing it. The Olympic and double world 400m champion is the only man in history run 100m in under 10 seconds, 200m in under 20 seconds and 400m in under 44 seconds – a staggering achievement. He lowered both his 100m and 200m personal bests last summer, before suffering a serious knee injury playing touch rugby in October. The entire athletics world will hope he can return to his best.

Trayvon Bromell

Age: 22
Country: United States
100m PB: 9.84sec
200m PB: 20.03sec

Had this list been compiled two years ago, Bromell would have been right at the top. The American enjoyed a prolific collegiate career and then shared 100m bronze with De Grasse at the 2015 World Championships. A first global title followed at the 2016 World Indoor Championships, but then came the Achilles injury that has halted his progress ever since. A short-lived attempt to return to competition ended when he failed to qualify for the World Championships last summer and major question marks remain over whether he will ever return to former glories.

Chijindu Ujah

Age: 24
Country: Britain
100m PB: 9.96sec
200m PB: 20.39sec

A former European junior champion back in 2013, Ujah took a giant leap forward the following year when he broke 10 seconds over 100m for the first time. Showing that he belongs at the highest level, Ujah repeated the feat in 2015, before taking a further step up last summer when beating a field that included Gatlin, Simbine and Asafa Powell to the Diamond League title. He clocked between 9.97sec and 10.02sec on six occasions last year, but he will need to lower those times to contest for major medals.

Ronnie Baker

Age: 24
Country: United States
100m PB: 9.97sec
200m PB: 20.55sec

Baker had already developed something of reputation as an indoor 60m specialist by the time he turned professional near the end of 2016, having won successive American collegiate titles over the short distance. He then showed he could step up on the international stage when winning the 2017 national 60m title and finishing with the fastest time in the world that year. A first major medal followed this winter with world 60m bronze. He is yet to fully transfer his ability outdoors, but beat some big names when running a wind-assisted 9.86sec last summer and has plenty of potential.

The unknown quantities

Clarence Munyai

Age: 20 
Country: South Africa
100m PB: 10.10sec
200m PB: 19.69sec

In the space of 19.69sec this March, Munyai catapulted himself to the top of the list of promising young sprinters looking to excel on the senior stage. That performance in Pretoria meant he snatched the South African 200m record from none other than Van Niekerk, although he could only finish fourth at the Commonwealth Games the following month. Last season he was the fastest junior 200m runner in the world (and seventh of all time).

Clarence Munyai 
Clarence Munyai broke Wayde van Niekerk’s South African 200m record last year CREDIT: AP

Noah Lyles

Age: 20
Country: United States
100m PB: 10.14sec
200m PB: 19.90sec

Prolific during his high school career, Lyles won the world junior 100m title in 2016 before turning professional later that year and continuing his upward curve. A time of 19.90sec in his second 200m race of 2017 marked him out as a genuine contender for global honours, only for a hamstring tear to rule him out of the World Championships. Unperturbed, he returned for the Diamond League final at the end of the season and beat an illustrious field.

Reece Prescod

Age: 22
Country: Britain 
100m PB: 10.03sec
200m PB: 20.38sec

Slightly older than the rest of the young sprinters still taking their first steps on the international stage, injuries have forced Prescod to develop later than normal. Standing well over six-feet tall, the Briton bears something of a physical resemblance to Bolt on the track and enjoyed a brilliant 2017 when he was able to run injury-free for the first time. An unexpected British 100m title was followed by a spot in the World Championships 100m final. Significant progress is required, but he is highly thought of within the British Athletics community.

Abdul Hakim Sani Brown

Age: 19
Country: Japan
100m PB: 10.05sec
200m PB: 20.32sec

Born to a Ghanaian father and Japanese mother, huge things have been expected of Sani Brown for a number of years in his native Japan. The teenager won double gold over 100m and 200m at the World Youth Championships in 2015 and has continued to lower his personal bests, as well as qualifying for the World Championships 200m final in London last summer. His coach Rana Reider last year described Sani Brown as the best 18-year-old sprinter he had ever seen.

The rest

There are no shortage of other men hoping to take advantage of the Bolt-sized hole in global sprinting. China’s Su Bingtian has been a regular in major finals and took a whopping 0.08sec off his 60m personal best to win world silver this March. British trio Adam GemiliNethaneel Mitchell-Blake and Zharnel Hughes are all on an upward curve, while injury meant the exciting Miguel Francisscarcely ran after pledging allegiance to Britain last April.

Christopher Belcher leads a chasing pack of Americans that also includes the hugely promising 200/400m specialist Michael NormanJimmy Vicaut, of France, is always consistent at the highest level and Yoshihide Kiryu last year became the first Japanese man to break 10 seconds.

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