For the first time since 2004, the Olympic gold medal winner in the men’s 100m sprint will not be Usain Bolt.
Jamaica’s sprint king is now enjoying retirement and there are an array of sprinters sizing up the title in Tokyo this summer.
Sportsmail assesses some of the candidates who could emerge victorious in the 100m final on August 1.
Usain Bolt is now retired, so there will be a new 100m Olympic gold medal winner in Tokyo
The likes of Andre de Grasse (left) are looking to take Bolt’s crown on August 1 at the Olympics
Andre de Grasse, Canada
That year, he also won bronze in the 4x100m relay and took silver in the 200m, becoming Canada’s first athlete to take medals in all three sprint events.
He has a close relationship with Bolt, the man he is looking to succeed, and the legendary Jamaican has said he sees himself in De Grasse.
Speaking about the Canadian after the 100m race in Rio, Bolt said: ‘He’s going to be good, he runs just like me, I mean he’s really slow at the blocks but when he gets going, he gets going.’
With Bolt out the way, and 2016 silver medallist Gatlin now 39 years old, the time to get going is upon De Grasse.
De Grasse (left) of Canada is one of the favourites to win 100m gold in Tokyo this summer
Akani Simbine, South Africa
Simbine finished fifth in the 100m final in Rio, albeit three hundredths of a second off third, and holds the 100m record in his home country with a time of 9.89 seconds.
He has been running 100m in under 10 seconds this year, clocking 9.97 seconds in March. The 27-year-old is bullish over his chances in Japan and has made no secret that his target is to win gold.
Simbine made an electrifying start in 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic kicked in at what seemed like the worst possible time.
‘I was on fire, I felt like this was my year,’ Simbine told CGTN Africa. ‘I’ve learned a lot since Rio. If I go to the Olympics and I win the gold medal for the 100m, no South African has ever done that and no African has ever done that.
‘When I stand on the line, I’m not just representing South Africa I am representing the whole continent and that is a really big thing.’
South Africa’s Akani Simbine is looking to better his fifth-place finish in Rio five years ago
Zharnel Hughes, Great Britain
The British hopes could well rest on the shoulders of Zharnel Hughes, should he decide to focus on the 100m. The 25-year-old could opt to solely focus on the 200m and a decision will likely be made in late June at the British championships.
‘Training’s going pretty well, no issues with lockdown or being inhibited to train. I’m really happy with where I’m and how things are progressing,’ Hughes told Eurosport.
‘I’m getting stronger, ironing out what needs to be ironed out, I’m running pretty fast right now – I think with three months remaining, it’s going to get much better in terms of technical executions. By Tokyo, I’m going to be in top shape.’
Considering Hughes is the 100m European champion, it would be a shame if he were to leave the race alone in Tokyo. He is coached by Glen Mills, the man who worked with Bolt during his successes. If anyone knows about managing the demands on both races.
Zharnel Hughes is one of Great Britain’s great medal hopes for the Games in Japan
Yoshihide Kiryu, Japan
The host nation’s biggest hope, the 25-year-old Kiryu became the first Japanese sprinter to run the 100m in under 10 seconds back in 2017, signalling his great potential.
In the last couple of years, he has emerged as one of Asia’s standout forces in 100m sprinting, winning gold in the Asia championships in Doha in 2019.
The pandemic shunted what was lining up to be a huge year for Kiryu with a home Olympics and even by the time the Games eventually arrive in July, he could be forgiven for having a bit of a ‘what if’ perspective if, as expected, he competes without a full crowd behind him.
Yoshihide Kiryu (second-right) is the home favourite looking to cause a big upset in Tokyo
Noah Lyles, United States
Like British hope Hughes, Lyles could well be balancing the 100m and 200m in Tokyo as he bids to end the USA’s wait for a 100m sprinting gold.
They’ve never gone four Olympic games without one and this year’s event in Tokyo is the fourth Games since Gatlin won gold in Athens.
Like Bolt, Lyles is a slower starter who comes into his own in the last 50m of a race.
Away from the track, he is a big anime fan and even dyed his hair silver during the Doha World Championships as a tribute to his favourite characters. Anime is obviously massive in Japan, so Lyles could become an adopted home favourite when he’s in Tokyo.
Noah Lyles could be the one to end the USA’s wait for a 100m sprinting gold at the Olympics
Trayvon Bromell, United States
Bromell has always been earmarked as a potential 100m gold medal winner but if he fulfils that potential in Tokyo, it will cap an incredible story.
Bromell, who on June 20 looked in commanding form with a 9.80 second-100m win in the US, has had a tough five years since the last Olympics. He injured his achilles in the 4x100m in Rio and has since needed two surgeries to repair the damage.
He went nearly two years without competing and then, in his comeback in 2019, he hurt his thigh at about the 70m mark. His coach Mike Ford has since admitted to NBC that he feared Bromell might quit racing altogether.
Trayvon Bromell looks to be in excellent touch after years of battling with fitness issues
So when Bromell on Sunday described his 9.80 second victory as a ‘marvellous feeing’, you really do believe him.
‘Everybody who knows me knows that I’m a spiritual runner. I run for God. I run for Christ. He tells us in scripture when things like this happen, ‘You won’t be surprised,’ so when I won, I was happy.’
There could be a far greater chapter in store for him yet.