International Athletics

The kids are alright as youth dominate US trials

2016-07-11 13:35
getty images, justin gatlin, athletics
Justin Gatlin (Getty Images)

Eugene - The United States will head to Rio de Janeiro with one of their youngest track and field teams in decades after the curtain came down on a fiercely competitive Olympic trials meet here on Sunday.

The blossoming of a new generation over 10 days of competition in Eugene means that the Americans will arrive in Brazil with a team likely to include 77 first time Olympians with an average age of 25.

It is expected to be the youngest US track team sent to an Olympics since 1988, and the emergence of so much young talent has left men's head coach Vin Lananna brimming with optimism as the Americans aim to top the athletics medal table once more.

"Good mixture of the veterans and youngsters and they're all hungry, excited and ready to go," Lananna said on Sunday.

"When we get to Rio, I think this is going to be one of the stronger men's teams, but also a very exciting men's team because there are so many newcomers."

"We have a lot of young athletes, but I think we have a good mixture of veterans as well that will pull the young athletes along."

Two of the youngsters who have garnered most attention are still in high school. On Sunday, 16-year-old Sydney McLaughlin punched her ticket to Rio with a third place finish in the women's 400 meter hurdles.

Vashti Cunningham, the daughter of former Philadelphia Eagles star Randall Cunningham, will compete in the high jump at the age of 18.

Cunningham has already won a World Indoor title with her victory in Portland in March.

Two high school athletes also turned heads in the men's 200m, although ultimately Noah Lyles and Michael Norman were unable to force their way into the squad as the old guard led by the 34-year-old Justin Gatlin asserted itself.

The form of 110m hurdler Devon Allen also signals him as a potential threat in Rio.

The 21-year-old is best known as a star in college American football, but blew away the competition to post the second fastest time of the year in Saturday's final.

The women's 100m hurdles also looks like a strong bet for a US gold.

The top six fastest times this year have been set by seven different American women, prompting talk of a possible podium sweep in Brazil.

In the glamour events, veterans Gatlin and LaShawn Merritt look to have hit form at just the right time as they aim to challenge the reign of Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt.

With Bolt nursing an injury that forced him to cut short his participation in Jamaica's Olympic trials, both Gatlin and Merritt have posted world leading times in the 100m and 200m.

Gatlin completed a sprint double with victory in the 200m on Saturday in 19.75. Merritt however snared the fastest time of the year only a day earlier, with 19.74.

"Seeing the guys who are going to go to Rio, I think that we are going to represent to the fullest and we're going to have fun with it," said Gatlin, who also clocked the fastest time of the year - 9.8sec - on his way to winning the 100m on the first weekend.

Merritt meanwhile is eyeing a possible 400-200 double in Brazil, something only achieved once before, by Michael Johnson in 1996.

The 30-year-old posted 43.97 en route to winning the 400m, another season best.

He has appeared reluctant to commit to a crack at the double in Rio, although USA Track and Field officials confirmed he would run both events.

The scheduling in Brazil will help him, with his preferred race the 400m being held before the 200m.

Allyson Felix's hopes of an Olympic double ended on Sunday, though, when she finished outside the qualifying positions in the final of the 200m.

The reigning Olympic 200m champion will instead switch her attention to the 400m.

Read more on:    olympics 2016  |  athletics

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