• AFP-JIJI

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Travyon Bromell powered through his opening 100 meter heat at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Oregon on Saturday, clocking a wind-assisted 9.84 seconds to secure his place in Sunday’s semifinals.

Bromell, the fastest man in the world this year after posting 9.77 seconds at a meeting in Florida in June, got off to a smooth start and led at halfway before easing up before the line to cross first at Eugene’s Hayward Field.

Bromell is widely regarded as the favorite for gold in Tokyo after battling back from a series of career-threatening injuries.

“I really believe. Doctors told me I would never run again,” Bromell said. “All I had was my faith.”

Veteran Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100 meter gold medalist who is bidding to make his fourth Olympics at the age of 39, finished second behind Bromell in 9.93.

“Some days at practice, I feel 39 but I live for this moment,” said Gatlin. “Today it was just going through the motions and making sure I got to the next day.”

World 200 meter champion Noah Lyles, who is targeting a 100-200 meter double in Tokyo, looked unconvincing in his heat, starting slowly before finishing third in 9.95, behind Ronnie Baker, at 9.88, and Fred Kerley, at 9.93.

“I was making sure that I didn’t false start,” said Lyles. “I felt a little bit rusty. I’m just taking it round by round, day by day.”

Lyles, who said his focus this season remains the 200 meter, is confident there is room for improvement over the shorter distance.

“I’ve got a lot more,” Lyles said. “I’ve been doing good in practice. I didn’t do as good over those first 10 meters today as I have been doing in practice.”

The semifinals and final of the 100 meter take place on Sunday, with the first three finishers punching their tickets to Tokyo.

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