In August last year Christian Coleman travelled to London hoping to make his mark on the global stage in Usain Bolt’s big farewell race. Seven months on from the young US athlete’s breakthrough silver medal 100m run ahead of the retiring Jamaican legend at the 2017 IAAF World Championships, Coleman returns to England as the first sprint phenomenon of the post-Bolt era. Subject to official ratification, the scorching 6.34 the diminutive 21-year-old clocked at the US Indoor Championships at altitude in Albuquerque on 18 February, will enter the world record book as the fastest ever indoor 60m.
The fact that he not so much shaved as smashed the long-standing record of 6.39, set by Maurice Greene back in the mists of 1998 and equalled by the Kansas Cannonball in 2001, suggests that in Coleman the global sprint game has another exceptional talent on its hands.
The New Mexico air might have been helpfully thin but the fact that the young man from Atlanta raised his arm in celebration before he crossed the line (a la Bolt in the 2008 Olympic 100m final) indicates that there Coleman might be capable of something similarly special at sea-level in Birmingham. He did, after all, clock an unratified 6.37 out of unwired blocks at Clemson University on 19 January. And, lest it be forgotten, as well as that silver medal 100m run in London (where he also beat Bolt in his semi to claim a career score of 2-0 against the great man), he did top the world outdoor 100m list in 2017 with 9.82.
Seven US sprinters have won the world indoor 60m title and an eighth appears likely. Should Coleman suffer a mishap, or a sudden dip in form, his team-mate Ronnie Baker could take that honour. The 24-year-old clocked 6.40 as runner-up in the US Indoor Championships, climbing to third on the world all-time list behind Coleman and Greene. Last year he jointly topped the world indoor list with Coleman, thanks to an altitude-assisted 6.45 in Albuquerque.
The other leading contender for a podium place is China’s Su Bingtian. The 28-year-old maintained his unbeaten record in 2018 by clinching the IAAF World Indoor Tour title with a 6.50 stadium record in Glasgow on Sunday. Su set Asian records of 6.47 in Karlsruhe and 6.43 in Dusseldorf and now stands sixth on the world all-time list. Only four male Chinese athletes have won world indoor medals and the form book points to Su following in the footsteps of hurdler Liu Xiang, triple jumper Dong Bin and long jumpers Li Jinzhe and Huang Chang Zhou.
There are other pedigree sprinters on the entry list, including Olympic 100m finalist Ben Youssef Meite of the Ivory Coast, but none is likely to receive a louder ovation than Kim Collins. He won the first of his two world indoor 60m silver medals in Birmingham way back in 2003, the year he proceeded to claim the world outdoor 100m crown in Paris.
At the age of 41, time has finally caught up with the Peter Pan of St Kitts and Nevis. He plans to hang-up his spikes after one last dash for glory in Birmingham.
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF