Donavan Brazier is in line to land himself a podium finish at the Tokyo Olympics after making a modest debut back in Rio in 2016, where he failed to make the final.
He made a statement at the 2019 Doha World Championships 800m final by breaking the USA record for the fastest finish. The record, held by Johnny Gray, had stood since 1985.
Donavan Brazier - making the USA team as a first step to Olympic greatness
The journey will have to start with Donavan Brazier making the U.S. Olympic team for Tokyo. He has not raced much in 2021, partly due to covid driven restrictions. He did break his American record (indoor) for 800m at an indoor meet earlier in the year. He returns to outdoor action on June 21 at the U.S. Olympic trials.
His main competitors are Bryce Hoppel, who has been in great form recently, and Clayton Murphy (the bronze medallist at Rio). Although there are 3 places available on the U.S. team, the competition will be close as there are some young and promising athletes who may unsettle the favorites.
Once he makes the team, he will be looking to build on his World Championship performance and better his own timing in the 800m event at the Tokyo Olympics.
Winning an Olympic medal, something that one of his current countrymen, Clayton Murphy (with a slower personal best time than his) has already managed, would assure him of a spot on the all-time greats list.
David Rudisha's absence from the Tokyo Olympics has left the medal prospects in 800m quite open.
Donavan Brazier will not be afraid to blaze it from the start like he did at the 800m indoor meet earlier in the year. He's the favorite for the gold at Tokyo, should he get through the USA trials.
The other main threats to Donavan Brazier based on recent form are Amel Tuka of Bosnia, Wyclife Kinyamal and Ferguson Rotich (both of Kenya), assuming they make their national teams for the Tokyo Olympics.
Donavan Brazier's international competition
Amel Tuka is a wily competitor and was second behind Donavan Brazier at Doha in 2019. Wyclife Kinyamal set a world record time for the 800m event in 2021 at the Diamond League in Doha in May 2021 and Ferguson Rotich was 2nd behind him at the same meet.
While Rotich doesn't have a faster personal best than Brazier, he has managed the rare feat of beating the legendary Rudisha once, which makes him a dangerous competitor if the race turns out to be tactical.
Donavan Brazier remains top of the World Athletics rankings for 800m for 2021 but that may not mean much when the athletes meet in Tokyo.
Donavan Brazier will need to beat his personal best at Tokyo
While Donavan Brazier and any of his competitors are unlikely to set a world record at the Tokyo Olympics, they may well have to set their personal bests to win a medal due to the intensity of the challenge.
This brings to mind the astonishing fact about the 800m final at the London Olympics where the first 6 runners, led by David Rudisha, all set personal bests in the same race. Only Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia from that unforgettable final managed to improve on the time he set in London.
In an unusual appearance in the World Athletics magazine, Spikes in January 2019, Donavan Brazier wrote about how the pursuit of a dream got him to raise his level time and again to bring out his best. It was perhaps not a coincidence that he managed to compete at such a high level in Doha in October 2019.
Special occasions bring out the best in athletes. The current generation, including Donavan Brazier, has the added technological benefit of modern day spikes to aid them in their pursuit of Olympic greatness. But first - the US Olympic Trials.