Abdul Hakim Sani Brown joins sub-10 second club

Japanese sprinting prodigy becomes his nation's second athlete to break the mark over 100m.

By Andrew Binner

Track star Abdul Hakim Sani Brown is delivering on his early promise.

Ever since winning the 100m and 200m at the 2015 World Youth Championships in Cali, the now 20-year-old has been regularly touted as the 'Japanese Usain Bolt'.

Such comparisons are bold for any athlete, but sprinters cannot really be considered potential world beaters until they've broken the prestigious 10-second mark, and Sani Brown has now done just that.

Competing for the University of Florida, he clocked 9.99 seconds at the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships in America.

Abdul Hakim Sani Brown alongside Yohan Blake in the 100m semis during the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London.

The time shaves 0.06 seconds off his personal best, and meets the qualification standard for Tokyo 2020.

"I knew I would reach (a sub-10 second time) sooner or later, so it wasn't the first thing on my mind," Sani Brown told Kyodo News.

"I was focused on delivering an all-out effort, carrying over everything I've learned from practice to the race, and just doing what I have to do."

The achievement garnered even more praise from the highest sections of athletics' governing body the IAAF.

“He is a phenomenal talent. We would say one of your picture children for the sport,” President Sebastian Coe, said.

Turning heads in Japan

Sani Brown is used to standing out.

The Fukuoka-born runner was born into a mixed-race family, with a Japanese mother and Ghanaian father.

After his Youth World Championships double, he made headlines in the athletics world by qualifying for the Senior World Championships as a 16-year-old.

At the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, Sani Brown qualified for the 200m semi-final against athletes at least three years his senior.

With American college scouts on full alert that a future star was in their midst, it wasn't long before he committed to the University of Florida in 2016.

Given his most recent achievement, it would appear that both the university and the athlete have made a good decision.

Sani Brown is following in the footsteps of the only other Japanese to break 10 seconds: Yoshihide Kiryu.

The 23-year-old recorded a time of 9.98 seconds in 2017 to beat the 19-year-old Japanese record.

But this excellent showing was perhaps not such a surprise, given his exploits the year previously.

Kiryu was part of the Japanese quartet that secured a shock Olympic silver medal at Rio 2016 in the 4x100m relay.

They finished just 0.33 secs behind Usain Bolt and Jamaica, when the onlooking U.S.A and Canada teams were the ones expected to be competing for second-place.

The team that announced Japan's arrival on the elite sprinting stage that day featured another mixed-race runner in Japanese-Jamaican Aska Cambridge.

With Bolt no longer in the picture, Japan's 4x100m team is hoping to go one better on home soil at Tokyo 2020.

With Kiryu's Olympic experience combined with the fresh blood of Sani Brown, Japan certainly have the ingredients for success.

The litmus test will be at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, where we will see if Japan's unquestionable individual talent can be fused into a team that the nation is depending on to win their first Olympic sprint title.