Tyson Gay backs Briton Adam Gemili to be an 'all-time great'

Second-fastest man in history tips Briton to break 10 seconds before he turns 20 next year

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No sooner had Adam Gemili crossed the finish line in the Montjuic Stadium in Barcelona on Wednesday than the questioning began. Having blitzed to the world junior title in a championship record of 10.05 seconds, might the 18-year-old novice sprinter from Dartford become the first teenager to break 10 seconds for the 100 metres?

According to Tyson Gay, the second-fastest man in history, Gemili is not only capable of running 9.99sec before his teenage years are out (he will not turn 20 until October next year) but of becoming one of the all-time greats of the sprint game.

Gay, who will compete in the 100m at the London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace tonight, has seen Gemili train at first hand and he watched the Briton's Barcelona run on television. "Phenomenal," the American said, shaking his head in admiration. "It was phenomenal.

"Maybe I can get some tips from him because of the great way he executed. He had a great drive phase and came up patient. He nailed it, man. At 18, that's quite impressive. I think he's going to be around for a while. I think he's going to be one of the greatest sprinters of all-time, man, watching that race. He did it at the big show and that's where it counts.

"The time he ran is great for his age. If he stays healthy he's capable of 9.99sec next year, then 9.92sec and then the 9.8s in a steady progression."

The remarkable thing about Gemili –who will run in the London Olympics next month but will be absent from Crystal Palace tonight (he still has the relay to come in Barcelona) – is that he is still a work in progress. He only started to concentrate on sprint training in October last year, under the direction of Michael Afilaka at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre in north London.

At the start of last season, he was still a wannabe footballer, playing at right-back for Thurrock – on loan from the Dagenham & Redbridge academy squad. Two weeks out from the London Olympics, he has run the 100m faster than Gay (10.28sec) and the current world champion, Jamaica's Yohan Blake (10.11sec), did as teenagers.

Gay is now the second-fastest man of all time, with a US record of 9.69sec. Usain Bolt, whose world record stands at 9.58sec, didn't contest a 100m until he turned 20, clocking 10.03sec in the summer of 2007.

The world record in the junior (under-20) age group is 10.01sec, run by Darrell Brown of Trinidad, whose championship record Gemili broke in Barcelona on Wednesday.

Britain's Mark Lewis-Francis ran 9.97sec as a teenager at the world championships in Edmonton in 2001 but the time was disqualified for record purposes because the wind gauge was not working.

"I've seen him training in Florida," Gay said of Gemili. "We've joked around, talked a little trash talk. He's fearless, from what I've seen. I call him Drake. That's my little nickname for him. I think he's tough, man. He just needs experience."

For clarification, the Drake in question is not the gallant Sir Francis, nor the comedian Charlie. He is a Canadian rapper.

"The most impressive thing is that he's just started running," Gay said. "He was damn near perfect last night and for him to do that in a year shows he's a fast learner. It shows he has some talent.

"He has to keep doing what he's been doing and keep listening to his coach. Don't listen to all the hype. As long as he keeps humble, and keeps working hard, I think the sky's the limit for him."