Michael Norman – five things to know about the US one-lap sprinting sensation

Norman will be in action at the US track and field trials (18-27 June) with the hopes of finally punching his ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (in 2021). 

Picture by 2019 Getty Images

A fresh-faced 18-year-old Michael Norman registered on the global radar when he made it into the 200m finals at the United States track and field trials for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

He beat former world champion Justin Gatlin in the 200m semi-finals before finishing fifth in the final, missing out on a place at the Games. Norman went on to claim the world junior title in the half-lap sprint later that year to announce himself on the global stage.

1 – Stormin’ Norman

In the two years of South African world record holder Wayde van Niekerk's injury-enforced absence, Norman seemed to fill the void in the one-lap sprint event. His personal best of 43.45 seconds ranks him joint fourth on the all-time world list.

Norman posted the fastest times in 2018 and 2019 in the 400m event signalling his potential to become the heir apparent to the throne of the lactate-inducing event.

Like Van Niekerk, Norman possesses an incredible range across the three sprint distances – the 100m, 200m and 400m.

Coincidentally, only Norman and the South African sprinting sensation have run under 10 seconds in the 100, 20 seconds in the 200 and 44 seconds in the 400. His personal bests are 9.86, 19.70 and 43.45.

Norman looked set to ascent to the throne in Van Niekerk’s absence at the 2019 World Championships, but his campaign ended on an anti-climax missing out on the final.

2 – Fast feet and fast cars

As on the track, Norman has the need for speed on the tarmac. The self-confessed speed junky likes to change gears off the track as much as he does on it as he enjoys watching motorsports and road cycling. Norman is not only a big fan of Formula One, but he also enjoys watching the Tour de France.

He would have wanted to be a Grand Prix racer if he was not bashing it out against the top athletes on the track at global meetings. Currently, his favourite F1 drive is Max Verstappen, while Belgium is his favourite race track.

3 – Big in Japan

Norman has part of his heritage rooted in Japan and hopes for a warm reception in Tokyo 2020. 

His mother, Nobue Saito, who once set a Japanese middle school record in the 100m, was born in Japan. 

Norman made a strong impression in his first race on Japanese soil, winning the 200m at the 2019 Golden Grand Prix Osaka in a fast 19.84.

Embracing his roots on his mother’s side, Norman has been learning to speak Japanese ahead of the Olympic Games.

4 – Strutting the headbands

Norman is part of a growing troop of athletes that strut headbands on the track. The accessory has become his trademark, inspired by former US world bronze medallist Trayvon Bromell.

As a reminder of his rivalry with reigning world 200m champion Noah Lyles, Norman kept the headband he wore when they raced against each other in the 200m final at the 2015 US U20 Championships. Lyles beat him in two more races in which they went head-to-head. Norman finally got his own back, beating Lyles at the 2019 Diamond League meeting in Rome, clocking a lifetime best of 19.70. Lyles followed shortly on his heels in 19.72.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

5 – Brothers in arms

Norman shares a special bond with training partner and world 400m hurdles silver medallist Rai Benjamin.

The duo train under the guidance of Quincy Watts, who was crowned 400m champion in Barcelona 1992. 

The roommates from college could be mistaken for twins, with the duo often wearing the same track colours and, of course…matching headbands.


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