The shadow of legend Usain Bolt hangs over every 100m world champion. Fred Kerley, the new fastest man alive, is also an inspiration to others – albeit for different reasons than the Jamaican.

When Fred Kerley snatched the world championship title after the 100-meter sprint by a razor-thin margin and his US teammates also took silver and bronze, the crowd went wild. The host country did not win three medals in the most important athletics competition for 31 years. The spectators at the Hayward Field Stadium in Eugene got their money’s worth on the second day of the competition at the first World Championships in the USA.

“It felt great,” said 27-year-old Kerley on Saturday evening (local time) after his success in 9.86 seconds. “It’s great to be able to do that on home soil with the support of the home fans.” Most of them will probably only now get to know his remarkable story through the title.

US boys: “Will achieve great things in the coming days”

People were immediately happy about the result and the prospects for the remaining races. With silver for Marvin Bracy and bronze for Trayvon Bromell, both of whom were timed in 9.88 seconds, and former world champion Christian Coleman as the fourth American in the final, the team’s confidence for the 4×100 meter relay is also huge. Despite the blunders of the US quartet in recent years: “We will not be beaten by anyone. We put in the work and we will achieve great things in the coming days,” predicted Kerley.

He’s done it himself, regardless of how many more medals he’ll win at the inaugural World Championships on US soil. Because Kerley grew up in circumstances that are often labeled “difficult” from the outside: With his aunt Virginia, called Meme, because the father went to prison and the mother went on the wrong track, as he wrote in an article a few years ago years self-reported.

Fred Kerley: “The difference was my attitude”

A total of 13 children shared a room in the small town in the middle of Texas. “At the end of the day, it was like any other house: we wanted to have fun and have a good time,” he said. The text published three years ago shows how remarkable his own path is. In it he describes that all the failed existences in his immediate environment were the motivation to make something better out of his own life: “The difference was my attitude.”

Thanks to this, he now holds the unofficial title of fastest man in the world, at least until the World Championships in Budapest in a year. And because he only switched from the 400 meters to the short distance in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics last year, his potential doesn’t seem to have been exhausted yet.

Taciturn Kerley is not a show talent like Usain Bolt

However, it seems questionable whether he will ever be able to fill in the big footsteps of Usain Bolt, in which every world champion in the 100 meters is inevitably placed. Because both Bolt’s world record of 9.58 seconds from the 2009 World Championships in Berlin and the qualities of the Jamaican as an entertainer and star of the athletics scene seem out of reach for the rather taciturn Kerley.

“Usain Bolt is probably a role model for all of us. He did a great job. We all want to be on the podium and reach his level,” Kerley said. “He did something that not many have done: world records over 100 and 200. I feel like we all want to be on his level.”

“If I can do it, so can you”

But his own story can also be used as an inspiration, the self-confident athlete has no doubt about that: “Everyone is a role model for someone else, and my development towards a sponsorship deal with Nike and the podium finishes shows the kids who look up to me: When I If you can do it, so can you.”