Fred Kerley dreamed of traveling the world when he was a small boy sleeping on a pallet with 12 other children in a room in Texas. Instead, in the night of Eugene’s impossible drama, he won.
In this world’s 100m. In one last desperate move, Kerley instinctively thrust his chest out and threw his arms back like an aerodynamic superman. As he did so, his compatriots Marvin Bracey and Trayvon Bromell were getting tense, tired, and out of shape. In a blur finish, 6ft 3in Kerley somehow got up on the line to grab gold in 9.86sec, while Bracey took silver and Bromell both in 9.88sec.
In the year He was the first American to clear the men’s 100-meter podium since Carl Lewis, Leroy Burrell and Dennis Mitchell in 1991. But long before the stadium announcer confirmed the results and the crowd chanted, “America! USA!”, Curley was charging down the back straight, celebrating one of the sport’s greatest rags-to-riches tales.
The bare bones story of how the 27-year-old was rejected by Hollywood for pushing the boundaries of the impossible. Both his father was imprisoned and his mother took “wrong turns in life”. And so his Aunt Virginia adopted him and his four siblings, 8 of whom she raised with herself in Taylor, 30 minutes outside of Austin, under one small roof. It was a tough upbringing, but Curly was always encouraged to dream and go for it.
“My siblings and I were adopted by my aunt Virginia,” he explained. “We had one bedroom. There were 13 of us in one bedroom. We were on the loading dock. At the end of the day, we all had fun, enjoyed ourselves and are now doing great things.”
Kerley, who has the words ‘Aunt’ and ‘Mem’ – a pet name for her – tattooed across his bicep, says: “What motivates me is coming from where I came from and not being in the same situation.” “Keep doing great things. You don’t want to be the same place you were when you were young.
Touchingly, he says he will now talk to his parents. “Every day,” he said. “What happened before will not happen now.”
There were many sliding doors along the way. Kerley wanted to be an American football player and only switched sports after breaking his collarbone in the last game of his high school career. In the year Until 2019, he was a 400m runner, good enough to win a bronze medal at the World Championships, before switching to the 100m and 200m at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials when he felt some ankle pain.
A month later he won the 100m silver medal in Tokyo – but finishing 0.04 behind Marcel Jacobs caused a burning sensation of disappointment. For the past 11 months, Curley couldn’t stop himself from yelling “push” every time he watched the final video. In Eugene, however, there was a time when that pressure was limited to perfection.
“I saw Bracy in front of me,” he recalled. “He dipped early. I dived at the right time and got the job done. It’s amazing to get a clean sweep, the greats did it in 1991 and the greats of 2022 today.”
Of course, Jacobs suffered a foot injury in the heat and was eliminated from the final. Tokyo bronze medalist Andre de Grasse was a shadow of his former self after injury and Covid. But Kerley seized the day, as he had done so many times in his life.
But everyone on the medal podium had a story worth highlighting. Bracey, for example, ran in the 2016 Olympics before breaking his arm in the NFL — later breaking it in his 2019 development league debut.
“I decided right away to get back on track,” said Brassey, who was a wizard with the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks. But still the tests passed. The silver medal was won after he suffered a ruptured appendix and intestinal obstruction that left him with eight meals from his stomach to his pelvis.
And Bromel? In the year He spent nearly $300,000 between 2016 and 2019 to repair a severely damaged Achilles tendon that kept him out of the Rio Olympics. In the year In 2018, things took a turn for the worse and he wrote a draft letter to his agent announcing his retirement. “Sometimes it’s hard to wake up,” he said Saturday night. “My ankles crack in practice, my hips crack. I feel like an old man. But nights like this make it all worth it.
In another era, these stories would be absorbed into mainstream US sports and life: amplified and celebrated. no more. Even in Eugene, which bills itself as Tracktown USA, the 15,000-seat Hayward Field stadium was probably only 80% full.
Perhaps there is still time for things to change, especially if Curley wins more medals in the 200m and 4x100m. It helps that he’s very much a renaissance man, with tattoos all over his body and a passion for growing vegetables. “My crops are doing well,” he said. “I cut some pumpkin before I left. I ate spinach from the garden and it was amazing.
With that he slapped his left and smiled. But the athletic new popeye isn’t just thinking about adding more muscle on the track. He also wants to inspire the next generation. “A lot of young people look up to me every day,” he said. “If I can do it, they can do it.”
What a story. What a performance. And what a man he is.