Athletics: British hope Prescod out to measure himself against Bolt
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Towering above his rivals in the junior ranks, Reece Prescod was often jokingly referred to as the 'British Bolt' and this weekend the 21-year-old could finally get to measure himself against the Jamaican great.
Prescod, from the London suburb of Walthamstow, just a few miles from the Olympic stadium that will host the world championships, will be part of the host nation's squad for an event dominated by Usain Bolt's farewell to the sport.
He sealed his debut appearance with a stunning 100m victory in 10.09 seconds at the British Championships last month in front of mostly empty seats in Birmingham.
There will be 60,000 watching when he takes to his blocks for Friday's 100m heats at the world championships -- the vast majority having never clapped eyes on him before.
The similarities between Prescod and Bolt will soon become apparent. He stands six foot four (1.93 metres) in his spikes, has a huge stride and, like Bolt, a surging finish which was apparent when he claimed a shock British title in last month.
"After 50 metres I can go with anyone but I need to make sure I get a good start," Prescod, who like Bolt was regarded as a better 200m prospect because of his build, told Reuters.
"People used to say I resembled Bolt because I was tall. Some say tall people can't go fast. Bolt proved that wrong," added Prescod, who once played basketball for London.
Like Bolt at the same age, Prescod is yet to clock a sub 10-second 100m -- his personal best of 10.04 being one hundredth of a second slower than Bolt's was before he sent shockwaves through the sport with 9.76 in Kingston, Jamaica in 2008.
The rest, as they say, is history as far as eight-times Olympic and 11-times world champion Bolt is concerned.
For Prescod it is all about the future, having found himself thrust into a major international championships -- junior or senior -- for the first time.
"Some people say I've skipped the queue because I never did the world junior or European juniors because of injuries," he said. "I gambled by doing the British Championships this year and now my first major championships is the worlds in London."
Prescod, coached by Jonas Dodoo, only began taking a professional approach to athletics at the end of 2015 when offered a two-year Nike sponsorship. Until then he worked late shifts in a golf club bar and woke early for training.
He began focussing on the 100m last year and served notice of his potential when he ran 10.04 at an English Inter-County meet in Bedford, the same day the British team flew to Brazil for the Rio Olympics.
"The boys were waiting to take off and they saw my time come through, it rattled them a bit I think," he said.
A few weeks later he finished fifth in the 200m in the Lausanne Diamond League but this year the focus has been the 100m.
In June he finished seventh behind the likes of Andre de Grasse and British team mate Chijindu Ujah in the Bislett Games in Oslo -- a moment he described as a "wake-up call".
"That was a whole new experience. I was in lane eight and didn't get the start I wanted.
"But it showed me what I needed to do. It helped me a lot for the British championships two weeks after that."
While there will be nerves as he awaits his big day, Prescod said his inexperience can be an advantage.
"I have no pressure and I'll just be running for myself and trying to break 10 seconds and then we'll see," he said.
"If Bolt's next to me it doesn't actually make any difference. I can't start thinking why am I here?
"I'm approaching it like a Diamond League with more people. I won't overthink it. Just stay chilled and relax."
In a sport where timing is everything though, Prescod at least has got something right.
"It's cool I'm making my debut in Usain's final event," he said. "It's good to pay respect, he's a legend, but now I'm a rival too hopefully. I've caught him just before he's gone."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)