This time last year Ameer Webb contemplated walking away from the sport. Now he's one of the fastest men in the world and on his way to the Rio Olympics.

June 2015. Californian sprinter Ameer Webb ran 20.30 to finish sixth in the 200m final at the US Championships. He was crushed.

“I had trained so hard in 2015,” he recalls. “I had driven hours to train at UCLA every day. I felt I had done everything asked of me, so to go there and place sixth... I was devastated.

“A lot of people would have been happy with a place in the final, but I don’t dream of finals. I have aspirations to not only make finals, but to win them. I never want to be the guy who shows up at prelims and then that is it.”

Webb, a gifted three-time NCAA sprint champion, had reached a tipping point in his career. He considered quitting the sport to take up a job as a police officer, but the tall half-lap specialist could not bring himself to walk away from sprinting.

Not yet.

He decided to “go for broke” in 2016. He washed up at Altis, the elite training centre in Phoenix, Arizona, last October. Under the coaching of Stuart McMillan he has become a man transformed.

Ameer Webb during the 2015 US Outdoor Championships ()

 Webb finished sixth at the 2015 US Champs and contemplated walking away from track

This year alone he has set or equalled eight personal bests in distances from 60m to 200m. He cracked 10 seconds for the 100m and 20 for the 200m, firmly establishing himself among the world’s leading sprinters. Webb has finally found his feet.

Raised in the city of Tustin in Southern California, the 25-year-old comes from a strong sprinting stock. His grandfather, Percy-Lee, was a Texas State 220yrd champion; his father a talented sprinter in California. He inherited those genes.

Webb won back-to-back 100m and 200m high school state titles, but as a passionate Denver Broncos fan, his main devotion back then was to American Football. Featuring as a promising high school running back, he later attended Cerritos College in Norwalk, California, for two years, but his football aspirations began to waver.

“It wasn’t going well for me,” he explains. “They tried to change my position from a running back to play defence.”

By comparison, during this period he lowered his track PBs to 10.37 and 20.46. Keen to compete at a division one school, he switched to Texas A&M in late 2011 to fully focus on sprinting.

He strived under the wily coaching of Pat Henry. In 2012 he secured the NCAA indoor 200m title and won NCAA outdoor 200m silver. The following year he banked the NCAA indoor and outdoor 200m double and finished fourth in the 200m at the national championships – just one place and 0.1 shy of qualifying for the Moscow World Championships.

Lauded as a star in the making he turned pro, but like so many athletes he found the adjustment tough.

“Not given much direction” he remained to train at Texas A&M. But no longer a student athlete, he wasn’t given as much attention he was afforded previously. He later trained on his own. His career began to drift.

Webb, Curtis Mitchell and Andre De Grasse working on their curve

In an effort to reclaim some control he joined Bob Kersee’s all-star group, which includes sprint icon Allyson Felix. Yet the experience of training as part of what was otherwise an all-female group didn’t quite work out for Webb. It led him to seek a fresh impetus to revitalise his career.

He knew he needed more specific speed work and greater structure to his training. Seeing the times Canadian Andre de Grasse was running out of Altis and impressed by the set-up there, he leapt at the chance to join the Arizona-based training group at the tail end of last year.

Training alongside top quality athletes such as De Grasse and Curtis Mitchell has proven an inspiration. It has lifted Webb to new heights on a daily basis.

“I’m hopping into training sessions with guys who have won medals and made world teams,” he says. “I’m training with guys who have fast starts and other guys who are strong finishers.

“It has been beneficial to compete with them. It has built me into a better all around athlete.”

Under McMillan, whom he describes as an “understanding and deep-thinking coach”, the recipe began to come together. Webb set a series of PBs over the 60m distance earlier this year, lowering his quickest mark from 6.66 down to 6.60.

“I had never run so close to 6.50 and suddenly I was either beating guys who used to beat me, or I was a whole lot closer to them,” he explains.

Buoyed by this new-found confidence, the 25-year-old ran his first sub-20 second 200m clocking in 19.91 in Norwalk, California, in April. The big bang came when he announced himself to the world by defeating a top-class field at the Doha Diamond League, recording a PB 19.85.

“I was up against guys I’d only seen on YouTube, so I couldn’t believe I was finally racing them,” he admits. “I just had to keep my head together and stay focused.

“To beat an international field after a 12-hour flight proved to me I could do it. I felt like my college self again. To see 19.85 was incredible.”

Ameer Webb reacts after finishing third at the US Olympic Trials ()

 "My god I just qualified for the Olympics"

Boasting a good curve technique, coupled with his growing ability to maintain top speed deep into a race, Webb has developed into a major force. At the Rome Diamond League he claimed another 200m victory in 20.04 and pushed Justin Gatlin close in the 100m with an impressive PB of 9.94 just 80 minutes later.

Long-term he wouldn’t rule out a more serious crack at the 100m, but his main focus this season is the 200m. With the belief that he has “a lot more to come”, who knows what Webb can achieve in future.

Last month he told us: “I want to make that US Olympic team.”

With this item ticked off the list thanks to a third-place finish at the US Olympic Trials in 20.00, it’s onto the next point.

“Once there, I don’t care who is there. Why can’t anybody beat Bolt? I’m not saying I can, but I would like to try.”

We wouldn’t bet against him.