Beijing: Sixteen-year-old Japanese schoolboy Abdul Hakim Sani Brown made an impressive run at the 200m heat at the IAAF World Championships here yesterday.
Japan's 16-year-old Abdul Hakim Sani Brown. Pic/Getty Images
The teenager advanced to today's semi-finals were clocking 20.35 seconds behind Gatlin to earn the American's respect.
"My race would have been slower but Sani pushed me so much," said the 33-year-old Gatlin, who clocked 20.19 seconds to win the heat.
"This young guy from Japan is phenomenal," added Gatlin.
Sani Brown, who shot to fame in Japan by claiming a sprint double at last month's world youth championships, was almost lost for words.
"It's a dream for me to run at the world championships with these stars," he grinned.
"I'm just very grateful to be here. I was a bit ragged at the end, but I think I can go faster," added the teenage champ.
Born to a Japanese mother and Ghanaian father, Sani Brown insisted he had not felt nervous about racing alongside Gatlin. "To be honest, I didn't feel like I was racing him at all.
It was just a great experience," said the youngster, who was ordered by his mother to choose track over football when in elementary school.