Wisdom from Waugh, YouTube and track history: Behind Browning's run to Tokyo

Sprinter Rohan Browning will contest the 100m race at the Tokyo Olympic Games Kelly Defina/Getty Images

On a sunny Sydney morning, Rohan Browning broke fast with cricket legend Steve Waugh for some pearls of wisdom ahead of the biggest race of his life.

Sprinter Browning will become the first Australian male in 17 years to contest the Olympic 100m at the Tokyo Games, with Josh Ross the last in 2004.

A dash has almost nothing in common with marathon of patience that is Test cricket. Browning is the first admit they're on different ends of the spectrum.

But having an Australian icon in his corner means the world to the 23-year-old as he looks to make athletics history.

"The reality is, there's a lot of insight to be gained from peripheral sources and inspirations," Browning told ESPN.

"I think it's important to draw inspiration and advice from a wide range of sports, professions and fields, because ultimately to have the qualities to excel in all of those are very similar.

"It's very easy to get caught up in this bubble where it's all about your event and the world stops at the 100m.

"I've definitely had some pearls of wisdom from the greats. I've always found Sally Pearson really approachable and willing to share her time, advice and experience.

"Steve Waugh has helped me out as well... I've picked his brain about a few different things. I've definitely always looked up to him, he's such an iconic Australian sportsman.

"It means the world to me, for them to give half an hour of their time."

And what were Waugh's words of wisdom?

"I'll keep that to myself," Browning grins.

The Sydney-based sprinter has no shortage of inspiration as he counts down the days until his Olympics debut, with the first heat of the 100m scheduled for July 31.

A self-proclaimed nerd of sporting history, Browning has watched the races of Ross, Patrick Johnson and Matt Shirvington online. The latter two are the only sprinters placed above him on Australia's rankings.

"I've seen all their runs on YouTube. If there's a YouTube video to be seen of the event, I've probably watched it," Browning said.

"Definitely, [it's a source of inspiration]. You know, Australian track and field has a very deep and rich history, particularly in the women's events.

"You look at some of Australia's greatest athletes, they come from track and field. Pearson, Cathy Freeman... Jana Pitman. There's more than that across a wide range of events and I couldn't do them all justice. I definitely draw a lot of inspiration from that history."

Browning created his own piece of history when he clocked 10.05s at March's Queensland Track Classic to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

It saw him jump to third on Australia's all-time list and Johnson's longstanding record of 9.93s, which he set in Japan back in 2003, is now in sight.

"I'm constantly guided and motivated by a goal to break the Australian record," Browning said.

"9.9s is a very strong national record held by Johnson, it's a testament to the caliber of athlete he was. It's a truly world class time.

"If you can run 9.93s in an Olympic final then there's no reason you wouldn't expect to be on a podium, or certainly right up there in the final, especially in the post-Bolt era."

Jamaica's Yohan Blake ran that time in Rio to finish fourth in the Olympic final, while 10.01s was the benchmark to make the top eight.

Tokyo 2020 will crown a new men's 100m champion following three-time winner Usain Bolt's retirement in 2016.

The race for who will take his mantle is wide open and rest assured, Browning wants to be in the mix.

He broke the hallowed 10s barrier with a wind-assisted 9.96s at the Illawarra Track Classic in January, and it's only a matter of time before he does it legally.

The blistering run gave Browning belief he could do it again because after all, "you can only run to the conditions set out before you."

He sat down with his coach Andrew Murphy, a three-time Olympian in triple jump, over a beer around that time to discuss what he needed to do to make the Tokyo final.

And the verdict was simple: consistency.

So far Browning has stayed around that 10s mark and following his Queensland feat, he claimed a second national 100-metre title with a fast time of 10.09s in Sydney.

The only thing left to do is continue his form into Tokyo, but he's under no illusion of how difficult that task will be after having limited exposure to international athletes due to COVID-19.

"It's been difficult not being able to travel for competitions because the last thing you want to do is get complacent," Browning said.

"I haven't lost a season on the Australian circuit yet, which means I haven't lost a season all year. But I haven't been running against the best American, Jamaican and British sprinters.

"I'm very aware the Olympics might be the first time all season that I'm really pushed to the line, that I'm not first to the 20-30m mark.

"So that's always in the back of my mind when I'm training. I try to have guys run like rabbits that I have to chase down, to try and mimic what that's going to look like."

Browning fine-tuned his Tokyo preparations on home soil, chasing the warm weather in north Queensland to complete a six-week training block.

He attended two invitational meets and ran thrice, with his Coral Coast Carnival time of 10.08s the last result before taking the Olympic stage.

The 100m heats start on Saturday before Sunday's final, a weekend in which Browning hopes to make Australian history beyond breaking the nation's qualifying drought in the sprinting event.

"To be the first guy in 17 years to qualify in the 100m for the Olympics games is a pretty special thing. But I try not to get wrapped up in the superlatives, just because it doesn't have any bearing on how you perform," he reasoned.

"I don't want to aspire to be the bear minimum, which is to get there. I want to be competitive.

"Once you're in the final, three out of eight guys are going to win medals. Those odds aren't the worst thing in the world.

"The reality of sport is, on any given day, anybody can turn it on. I don't just want to scrap through to the final as the eighth fastest guy and finish last in that race.

"The reason why we do it is to compete against the world... that's what the Olympic Games is all about."

And so Browning's journey from an aspiring 12-year-old school-boy to the Olympics will finally reach the summit at the Japan National Stadium.

It was always the New South Welshman's dream to make the Olympics when Murphy took him under his wing nine years ago, but was it always tangible?

"Definitely not. You know, I'm a pragmatic sort of guy. My goal posts are continually shifting, I probably need to see something to really start to believe it," he said.

"For me, when I came into the sport it was about trying to make a national final, or get some bonus ATAR points for university and something like that.

"When I start to reap the rewards of delayed puberty, I realized maybe I could actually win the thing.

"That was probably my progression until now. You don't just want to turn up, be in the mix and be a lane filler. You want to be a real contender."

Tokyo 2020 Men's 100m - Preliminaries: Saturday, July 31 from 12.35am. Round 1: Saturday, July 31 from 8.45pm. Semi final: Sunday, August 1 from 8.15pm. Final: Sunday, August 1 10.50pm. (Times in AEST)