Feature04 Aug 2017

World leader Coleman prepared for his turn in the spotlight


US sprinter Christian Coleman in London (© Getty Images)

Christian Coleman isn’t planning on merely being a spectator at Friday and Saturday evening’s Usain Bolt show at the IAAF World Championships London 2017.

Coleman, 21, is the youngblood in the 100m dash at these World Championships. He can rightly lay claim to being the fastest man of 2017 after clocking 9.82 at the NCAA Championships in Eugene on 7 June. It was a performance that topped off one of the finest collegiate sprint seasons ever produced and which sent a loud message to the future of the event.

Coleman also took the 200m title at those NCAA championships, two weeks after a 19.85 clocking in Lexington, Kentucky, currently the third fastest time of the year. He was undefeated in finals until the national championships in Sacramento, where he finished second in both the 100m in 9.98 and the 200m in 20.10. In London he’ll be beginning the next phase of his career focusing solely on the 100m. 

"I hit my goals for the collegiate season so, I've had to refocus my goals now for the world stage," Coleman said, speaking at a team USA pre-championships press conference on Thursday (3), where he deflected a wide variety of questions ranging from how he can handle the attention that Usain Bolt is bringing to his event to the news Thursday morning that Canada’s Andre de Grasse, a triple Olympic medallist last year, had dropped out of the championships citing a hamstring tear. Coleman said he was focusing only on his own lane.

“I’m not specifically worried about anyone but myself,” he said.

Builiding on a Tennessee foundation

Coleman is a product of the University of Tennessee whose program director, Beth Alford-Sullivan, served as a member of the coaching staff at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. World and Olympic long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta, who shared the late morning stage with Coleman, is also a Tennessee graduate, along with teammates Justin Gatlin, a former Olympic champion and Aries Merritt, the 110m hurdles world record holder.

“I’ve learned,” said Coleman, “how to approach the day to day. This sport is about detail, and Tennessee has tightened that.”

“We taught him a process,” said Tim Hall, Coleman’s sprint coach. “He’s slashing tenths of seconds off his time due to his work in tightening technique and perfecting his stride. This unlocks his potential.”

Coleman of course competes against – and has learned from – Gatlin.

“We’ve grown a lot closer,” Coleman said. “He’s helped me learn how to handle myself.”

Coleman and Gatlin perhaps represent the best US chance at unseating Bolt. Does Coleman feel the pressure?

“Actually,” said Coleman,” I haven’t thought about it. The atmosphere, the competition…I can only control myself.

“This is my first competition at international level and the goal for me is to come out with the win and that's everyone's goal.”

Hall insists that the preparation remains the same.

“We test out the speed of the track like normal,” Hall said. “We place the cones to work out strides like normal. Nothing changes.”

This is the drumbeat from Team Coleman. 

“I approach this,” Coleman said, “one day at a time. It’s cool to be a part of history, but that has nothing to do with my preparation.

“I feel I've worked hard and deserve to be on the stage and I'm ready to compete.”

The press feeds the Usain Bolt show.

Christian Coleman just wants to run.

Sam Dodge for the IAAF