By Gene Cherry
EUGENE, Oregon (Reuters) - A strong and hungry group of U.S. sprinters is ready to end a long American drought.
The once dominant country has not won a global title in the 100 meters since 2007, but that could change at the IAAF world championships in Beijing in August.
Led by year's fastest man Justin Gatlin, the U.S. squad finalised at the weekend's American trials is loaded with talent to challenge the world.
"The U.S. team will be the strongest for some years," internationally recognized athletics expert Mel Watman told Reuters when asked to assess the overall strength of the American team.
"At the 2013 worlds the U.S. won only six gold medals but in Beijing I wouldn't be surprised if your athletes won double that number."
Along with Gatlin, former world champion Tyson Gay, the last U.S. sprinter to hold a global title, promising teenager Trayvon Bromell and veteran Mike Rodgers, all will be in the 100m at Beijing.
"I think a lot of (U.S.) sprinters are waking up and understanding that it's time to fight back," said Gatlin, who had a bye in the 100m at the trials but ran a scorching 19.57 seconds in the 200m.
Only four men have ever run faster.
"It's time to go out there and work hard and bear that American flag with honor," said the controversial Gatlin, who has served two doping bans.
"I think a lot of us are doing that, Bromell, Tyson, myself, even Isiah Young in the 200, Wallace Spearmon.
"We're going out there and we're going to be ready when it comes to world championships."
The group's speed in both sprints -- Gatlin, Young and Spearmon will run the 200m -- has given the Americans hopes of dethroning an underperforming Usain Bolt, who has won all but one global 100m title since 2007. The other went to Jamaican compatriot Yohan Blake.
There is strength too on the women's side with English Gardner sharing the year's top time in the 100m and London Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix the outright leader in the 200.
Along with Gatlin, Felix, Gardner and Olympic pole vault champion Jenn Suhr, the Americans leave their trials with nine other athletes with the top performances in the world this year.
"A nice blend of youth and experience, as typified in the sprints where you have proven big-time winners like Gatlin (33), Gay (32) and Felix (29) lining up with wonderful newcomers to the international scene such as Bromell (19) and Jenna Prandini (22)," said Watman.
"The strength in depth in numerous events was awesome.
"No other nation could match 12 men inside 10.00 seconds for 100m (admittedly some wind assisted), six inside 45 seconds for 400m, five long jumpers over 8.30m, nine women inside 11.00 seconds for 100m, and six 100m hurdlers inside 12.70 seconds."
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)