By Drazen Jorgic
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Two years after choosing to focus on professional sprinting, Tori Bowie's meteoric rise has left her eyeing the sport's biggest prize -- Olympic gold in the 100 meters.
Bowie, who won a 100m bronze at last year's Beijing world championships, only decided to turn her attention away from the long jump and onto sprinting in 2014.
In a short space of time, however, the 25-year-old American has carved a place among the sport's elite and is now seen as a threat to Jamaica's sprinting great Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and her bid for a record third 100m gold medal at the Rio Games.
With Jamaica's Elaine Thompson and Netherlands' Dafne Schippers among those also competing for medals in Rio, there is a rich vein of sprinting talent currently running through the sport.
And Bowie is among those predicting the women's final will be one of the greatest ever 100m races.
"I think this Olympics will be one of the greatest. We will make history," Bowie told Reuters on Wednesday.
At the U.S. trials last month, Bowie lowered her fastest 100m time to 10.78 seconds, edging closer to 10.70, the personal bests of both Fraser-Pryce and Thompson.
"I have way more left in the tank," said Bowie, who broke down in tears after the 100m U.S. trials as she felt disappointed with her run and third-place finish.
"I was crying, I was upset. Not because of the loss but because I didn’t do anything correct," she said. "That tells me that I can run much faster."
Bowie's remarkable rise comes after a freak injury stopped her from qualifying in the long jump for London 2012. She suffered a broken jaw when a fight broke out in a nightclub and she was hit by a stray bottle.
Bowie has also overcome difficulties in her personal life, having been put up for adoption by her mother when she was two years old. In the end, Bowie's grandmother raised her in a small Mississippi town.
"My family played a huge role in my success, a huge role. I think we had to overcome so much and I think it’s making me a stronger individual," Bowie said.
"My grandma won’t be here in Rio but she will be at home cheering me on."
Bowie is eyeing three medals in Rio. She will run in the women's 4x100m relay and also contest the 200m after winning the U.S. Olympic trials in 22.25 seconds.
She has had a nagging issue with her confidence, however, and said part of the problem in the past has been a lingering feeling of insecurity about her ability.
"That has been an issue in the past year or two," she said. "It’s come from being inexperienced. I’ve only been sprinting for two years now.
"(But) I have the confidence to tell myself that I’m one of the best, or I wouldn’t be here."
(Reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Toby Davis)