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Sani Brown takes aim at Bolt as Japan names team for worlds

Kyodo

Sprinting phenom Abdul Hakim Sani Brown is setting the bar high — very high — for his career. And the 18-year-old just might have a chance to measure himself side by side against that bar known as Usain Bolt at the world athletics championships in August.

“He’s the world record-holder and this is it for him,” Sani Brown said of the Jamaican on Monday, a night after completing the 100-200 sprint double at the national championships. “I’ve never run with him so I want to go against him at the world championships, especially in the 100.

“I don’t really think about running a nine, but ultimately, my goal is to break the world record.”

Sani Brown’s name was one of 15 men rubber-stamped Monday for the Aug. 4-13 worlds in London. Only four women were named to the team, Rina Nabeshima, Ayuko Suzuki in the 5,000 meters, and Suzuki, Mizuki Matsuda and Miyuki Uehara in the 10,000.

By winning the 100 and 200 at the nationals, Sani Brown qualified for his second world championships in both races, exceeding his own expectations.

“I didn’t think I would qualify for both races, to be honest,” he said. “I’m pleased with the way I managed to run the heats, the semifinal and final all around the same time.

“I still have plenty of room for improvement. There’s not a whole lot of time between now and the world championships, but I have to do whatever I can. I’ll give these worlds everything I’ve got — for now.

“I’m just glad at the moment. I want to crawl back into bed.”

The Japan Association of Athletics Federations named two — Yoshihide Kiryu and Kenji Fujimitsu — to the men’s team for the 4×100 relay, in which Japan won silver at last year’s Rio Olympics.

Sani Brown and Shuhei Tada — the Kwansei Gakuin University student who has essentially come out of nowhere to qualify for London in the 100 — as well as Aska Cambridge and Shota Iizuka could fill out the relay team.

While Cambridge and Iizuka safely booked their seats on the flight to London in the 100 and 200, respectively, Kiryu missed the boat by finishing fourth in the 100 at the nationals.

Sani Brown and Tada said they will be ready should they get the call.

“I’ve run everything but the third leg, so I can adjust,” said Sani Brown.

Tada added, “I’m getting asked whether I feel any pressure, but the way I see it, people are expecting a lot out of us and that’s not a bad thing. I just have to go out there and run my race.”

For Japan, though, this summer’s worlds is looking like it will begin and end with Sani Brown.

“He’s a world champion at youth level and technically should be competing at the under-20 level,” said Koji Ito, the JAAF’s head of development who is also still the Japan record-holder in the 100 at 10 seconds flat.

“We’d like to see him go as far as he can. At the last championships in the 200, he already reached the semifinals, so we want him to improve on that and also reach the final in the 100.”

The six marathon runners — Hiroto Inoue, Yuki Kawauchi and Kentaro Nakamoto for the men’s race, Yuka Ando, Risa Shigetomo and Mao Kiyota for the women’s — were named in March.