By Gene Cherry
(Reuters) – American world indoor 60 meters bronze medalist Ronnie Baker is finally healthy and hopes to keep his comeback going when he faces British speedsters Richard Kilty and CJ Ujah at Glasgow’s World Athletics Indoor Tour stop on Saturday.
Many top sprinters are skipping the indoor season or limiting their schedules but not the 26-year-old.
“I just need to get back in the run in competition,” Baker, the third fastest indoor 60m runner of all-time at 6.40 seconds, told Reuters by telephone from Texas.
Before chasing down season leader Demek Kemp to claim the Millrose Games 60m in 6.54 seconds in New York last weekend, it had been nearly two years since he ran indoors, Baker said.
Now he plans to run the final three indoor tour races in Glasgow, Lievin in France and Madrid before turning to the outdoor season and the chase for a berth at the Tokyo Olympics.
A hamstring strain hampered Baker’s 2019 indoor season, sidelining him for five weeks, and abductor problems curtailed his outdoor running as he dropped from world number two on Track and Field News’ 100m rankings in 2018 to missing the 2019 list.
He ran only one outdoor meeting, the U.S. championships/world trials, finishing fifth in the 100m.
“After not making the team, I just decided to rest,” Baker said. “There’s no point in going hard to win a couple of Diamond League meets when the Olympics are this year. I didn’t want to jeopardize my chances of making the Olympic team.”
Now almost at 100%, he is confident of being in the mix in the cutthroat U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, in June.
World champion Christian Coleman, 2017 world gold medalist and 2019 runner-up Justin Gatlin, 200m world champion Noah Lyles and Baker will be vying for the three U.S. 100m spots for Tokyo.
“From my standpoint right now, Christian Coleman has got the Olympics (100m) won already,” retired 100 and 200m world record holder Usain Bolt said recently. “He’s fearless. He’s really fearless.”
Baker has other ideas.
When asked his views on the outcome of the trials, the fast-starting sprinter said: “As the winner.
“I know I am one of the best and I feel very confident. It’s definitely going to be a dog fight.”
There might even be a U.S. sweep in Tokyo
“I think we have a good chance of sweeping,” Baker said. “I’m not going to say it’s guaranteed because in an Olympic year all kinds of people come out of the woodwork. So I’m not going to hang my hat on a sweep, but I think there is a very good possibility.”
While some countries pre-select top competitors for the Olympics, the Texan likes the U.S. way.
“It would be really easy for me to say like other countries because I would make the team,” Baker said. “But that’s the easy way out and not who I am.
“That would be super nice but, at the end of the day, you have got to be not only physically prepared but mentally prepared and I love the system the way it is. It gives everyone a fair chance.”
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; editing by Ken Ferris)