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Sani Brown seals sprint double with 200-meter victory

Kyodo

Abdul Hakim Sani Brown dominated the talk at the national athletics championships from start to finish, the 18-year-old rising star winning the men’s 200 meters Sunday, capping his 100-200 sprint double.

Sani Brown took the tape in 20.32 seconds to qualify for his second event at this summer’s world championships. He is the first to complete the 100-200 double at the nationals since Shingo Suetsugu in 2003.

Kenji Fujimitsu was runner-up in 20.47 and defending 200 champ Shota Iizuka (20.55) third. Japan’s team for the Aug. 4-13 worlds in London will be announced Monday.

Sani Brown, who is headed for his second worlds, said he was still fatigued from the 100 final a night earlier in a career-best 10.05.

“To be honest, I was exhausted after the 100,” said Sani Brown, named the most valuable men’s athlete of these nationals. “I felt it during warmups today, and I was trying to reduce the wear and tear as much as possible with massages and by stretching.

“I knew I wouldn’t have the legs at the end, so the plan was to pull away as much as possible over the first 100 and try to hang on. I’m glad it worked out. I really didn’t have anything left in the end.

“I only had one race today,” he continued. “I just wanted to get through it and enjoy a nice supper tonight. I was relaxed and pretty levelheaded going into the race. I’m thinking of maybe some good ramen tonight.”

While neither Fujimitsu nor Iizuka met the qualifying standard for London in the final, Iizuka’s 20.40 in the heats and a top-three finish secured his spot at the worlds.

“This will be my fourth time at the worlds,” said Iizuka, who helped Japan to a silver medal at the Rio Olympics in the 4×100 medley relay but is focusing on the 200 for the worlds. “I hope I can get to the final and run my heart out.”

Sani Brown is not about to rest on his laurels. After a quick break, he will likely compete on the European circuit to prepare for what will be the last career meet of world record-holder Usain Bolt, who Sani Brown hopes to face in the 100 and 200 finals — and possibly even in the 4×100 if he is selected.

“The world championships in 2015 was a dream experience,” the University of Florida-bound teenager said. “I hope I don’t get swept away by the atmosphere this time and I’ll try to enjoy it.

“I can’t become complacent. If I don’t produce in the upcoming meets, it defeats the whole point of having won here. If I’m feeling it like I’m now at this competition, I’ve got no chance of getting through the grind at the worlds.”

“I have to keep working so I can put on the best performance possible in London.”

Kana Ichikawa was chosen the nationals’ top female athlete after winning the 200 in 23.63 Sunday, adding to her 100 title for the women’s double.

She held off six-time defending champion Chisato Fukushima (24.01), who wound up fifth, though Ichikawa did not meet the qualifying standard in both the 100 and 200.

Sani Brown was joined on the team for London by Shunya Takayama, who won the men’s 110 hurdles in 13.45; Takashi Eto in the high jump with 2.25 meters; and triple jumper Ryoma Yamamoto (16.29).

Rina Nabeshima qualified in the women’s 5,000 in 15:19.87.