Japan has produced quite a few nifty little sprinters in recent years, and the latest is probably the niftiest of the bunch. He is the double world youth champion Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, and his next stop is the world championships in Beijing.
Man of the world
Abdul Hakim Sani Brown was born in Fukuoka in Japan, to a Japanese mother and Ghanaian father. He now resides in Tokyo, where he is schooled at Josai High School.
His mother, Akiko, competed in the sprint hurdles as a high schooler, making the national championships in her event. It’s not just those genes that got Sani Brown running; he says that he “used to play football” until his mother persuaded him to take up athletics because he is “not really good at team sports”.
Mother, it turns out, really does know best.
Holdin' his gold'un. He won two of these at the Cali world youth champs.
Sani Brown was undoubtedly one of the standout performers at last month’s world youth championships. Like Candace Hill, the 16-year-old won a sprint double, clocking championship records (100m in 10.28 and 200m in 20.34) along the way. That latter time broke the record previously set by a certain Usain Bolt.
Bigger than stop watch
Those CRs meant more for Sani Brown than just a place in the record books. He finished runner up in both the 100m and 200m at the Japanese senior national championships before he headed out to Cali, but at that point had not met the world champs qualifying times in either event.
That all changed with his 200m CR, which as well as gifting him gold, was good enough to punch his ticket to Beijing to represent his country at senior level. His berth on the team was confirmed last week, and he will be the youngest athlete ever to compete in the 200m in the history of the world champs. He is also down for the 4x100m relay.
“I want to do so much more, win Olympic gold and set the world record. Cali was a big step to do that,” he told the IAAF after his historic double. The world champs will provide valuable experience, with the Rio Olympics taking place in 12 months' time, and the 2020 edition to be held in Tokyo.
A hectic summer schedule will come to a head next week in Beijing
Sani Brown scored more medals at Japan’s National High School Championships, although not both the colour that he would have wanted. He was beaten in to second place in the 100m, running 10.30 in the final (which is still stonkingly fast) from Oshima Kenta, who won in 10.29. In the 200m he won gold in 20.82 in to a 1.8m/s headwind.
Given that it was his second national championship of the summer, and that it was sandwiched between two global championships, that minor blip was entirely forgivable.
Run hard, sleep hard seems to be the mantra that Sani Brown lives by. He is naturally shy, and was clearly overwhelmed by the huge media presence at his first training session after returning from Cali.
Like most teenagers (and John Lennon), Sani Brown would rather be sleeping – indeed he says it is one of his favourite hobbies. His ideal allowance of 💤s is “anywhere between 12 and 13 hours” a night. After his schedule of hard days’ nights, few could argue he hasn’t earned it.