July 19, 2002
By Raffique Shah
DARREL Brown's 10.09 golden run in the 100 metres at the World Junior Championships in Jamaica last Wednesday night has put him atop the IAAF Juniors rankings (under-20 years) in the world for this year. His companion, Marc Burns, was also good for 2nd place with his 10.18 runner-up placing in the same race. But of greater importance is the fact that still three months shy of his 18th birthday (October 11), Brown finds himself in 16th position overall among all 100 metres specialists of any age! In the open category, the IAAF has listed Maurice Greene, the world record holder (9.79, Athens, 1999) as the leader for the year, following his 9.89 clocking in Rome two weeks ago.
Brown's ranking in the open category puts him alongside Nigeria's Francis Obikwelu (who now runs for Portugal), Greg Sadler and Jon Drummond of the USA. They all ran 10.09 as their best for the year. But what is striking, as it has always been since Brown broke into the upper reaches of the 100 metres dash, is that all those listed with him are much older than he is. Drummond, the "grand-dad" of the lot, is 34. Sadler is 28 and Obikwelu 24.
In fact, among the 15 persons who have run faster times, the only one who should be of some concern to Brown is Britain's Mark Francis-Lewis: at age 20, he has clocked 10.04, the same time as St Kitts' Kim Collins, who is 26 years-old. The world junior record for the distance is 10.06-was set by Britain's Dwain Chambers in 1997, when he was 19 years old. Brown is not expected to run in the open 100 metres at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, scheduled to be start next week. He is, however, the backbone of this country's 4-by-100 relay team in the absence of Ato Boldon.
However, based on his form, had he entered the 100 metres, he would almost definitely have reached the finals, and quite possibly win a medal. Within the Commonwealth, only the following athletes have run faster times than him for the season: Fredericks (Nam), Deji Aliu (Nigeria-10.03), Chambers (GBR 10.03), Collins (STK10.04), and Lewis-Francis (GBR 10.04). Other athletes who have run faster times for the year are mostly Americans (Greene, Tim Montgomery, Shawn Crawford, Joshua Johnson, Coby Miller, Brian Lewis and Bernard Williams. Fredericks, in an amazing comeback at age 35 after two bad years, is back in sub-10 form . But except for Fredericks, none of these latter-named athletes will race in Manchester because they do not belong to the British Commonwealth.
Ken Doldron, president of the NAAA, said on Friday he tried to persuade Brown's management team (coach Nestor Brown, daddy Brown and manager Peter Samuel Jnr) to have the youngster run the 100 metres in Manchester. "They are adamant, though, that he participates only in the relay," he said. "It's a pity, since I feel sure he stood a chance of mounting the medals podium. But we'll have Burns, Marvin Regis and Jacey Harper in that event." He expects, too, good performances from Damion Barry, Simon Pierre and Julian Raeburn in the 400 metres (and 4x400 relay), Candace Scott in the hammer throw, Fana Ashby in the 100 and 200 metres, and Melissa De Leon in the 800 metres.
"But it would have been great to have Brown face the starter in the 100," he added. "Psychologically, that would have given the entire team a lift. Also, I have tried to reason with Guy Boldon to have Ato present in Manchester, if only to motivate the team. But that seems to be out...the team will have to learn to face world class athletes without Ato's presence." Regarding Brown's new status as this country's highest-ranked athlete, Doldron said that because he is now among the top 50 100 metres specialists in the world, he is entitled to have a professional manager. Also, the Grand Prix circuit will be open to him.
"But because he is committed to attending college in the USA from September, he cannot take the professional route. The NCAA rules are clear. An athlete cannot enjoy the benefit of a college scholarship if he has turned professional. That is not so in Britain and Europe, so athletes like Lewis-Francis could enjoy the best of both worlds." Doldron said, though, it's in Brown's best interest that he gets a good basic education. "He is a potential superstar sprinter, so he must be able to face the world with confidence, which he will get with a college education."
Brown has carved a name for himself in athletics history as the youngest athlete ever to officially record 10.09 in the 100 metres. Carl Lewis, one of the greatest track and field athletes who started out with the long jump, was clocking 10.21 at age 19. Former world record holder Donavan Bailey did not take up athletics until he was 26 years old. Trinidad's McDonald Bailey equaled the world record of 10.2 in 1951, by which time he was well into his 20s. Interestingly, it was legendary American athlete Ira Murchinson, who often dueled on the track with another legend, Bobby Joe Morrow, was the second athlete to run 10.1. He and Willie Williams clocked the same time-a world record then-in Berlin in 1956.
But none of these greats achieved their feats before reaching 18 years of age. Clearly, Brown is destined to re-write the athletics records book.
Copyright © Raffique Shah