Christian Coleman: The next great American sprinter?

It was an astonishing moment. At the 2018 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Brussels, Christian Coleman recorded the seventh-quickest 100 meters time in history, passing the finish line in just 9.79 seconds. It was the fastest run for three years and brought the American level with compatriot Maurice Greene, the former world-record holder who registered the same time in 1999. As a result of his fantastic recent achievement, Coleman is currently the most-discussed sprinter on the planet.

The 22-year-old was not the favourite to triumph at the King Baudouin Stadium in Belgium’s capital, with fellow countryman Ronnie Baker widely tipped to come out on top. Although he did finish as runner-up with a time of 9.93, Baker was some distance behind the eventual winner – as were Jamaica’s Yohan Blake (9.94), Great Britain’s Reece Prescod (9.99), South Africa’s Akani Simbine (10.03), the United States’ Michael Rodgers (10.16), Great Britain’s Chijundu Ujah (10.17) and the United States’ Isiah Young (10.26).

“I’ve got the world lead, I’ve got the Diamond League Trophy that everybody was shooting for this year,” Coleman said after his success in Brussels. “So I guess I’m at the top of the leaderboard right now. But there’s so many guys with talent, a lot of guys shooting for the top spot, so I have to continue to stay healthy and continue to stay on my A game and keep getting better to try to stay on top.

“I think I can go much faster, I’ve just got to continue to work hard. I knew based on my times in practice earlier in the season that I was ready to run fast and even faster than (9.79). Then, based on my times in practice, I knew that I could do something special if I’d come out here and compete.

“But there are a lot of things that I can work on, that I can get better at, so I don’t like to put a time limit on myself. I don’t want to say I want to run a specific time; I just want to compete against myself every day and get better. And so I think with that type of mindset, like I’ve always had, the sky’s the limit. I’m excited about that.”

Running in lane six, Coleman was seen crossing himself with his eyes closed shortly before the race began. Simbine made a good start over the first few metres – Baker, conversely, was forced to play catch-up after beginning poorly – but it did not take long for Coleman to power ahead of the competition, with the 22-year-old in pole position immediately after the drive phase.

It was a superb run by the man from Georgia, who had endured a frustrating season with persistent injuries. Coleman was forced to withdraw from the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix due to a hamstring problem, and although he did manage to take part in some races before Brussels, his 9.94 season’s best – nine athletes had recorded a superior speed in 2018 – did not exactly show a sprinter on top form.

Yet perhaps the time he was forced to spend on the sidelines actually helped Coleman, who certainly looked fresh as he recorded the third-fastest time in United States history earlier this month (behind only Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin). Even so, few expected him to dominate the field to the extent that he did, with the American now expected to build on his accomplishment in 2019.

“A lot of people were telling me, ‘You’ve proven yourself, just shut it down and get ready for next year, just wrap it up’,” Coleman added. “But that’s just never been in my nature. This is what I love to do. I love to compete. I knew that I just had to keep working, keep learning, stay focused and I knew it would all come together. And it did. This race felt better than any other accomplishment.

“This is just fun to me. I love track and field and I love competing. I love moments like this where all you have to do is make it here and everyone has a shot. Everybody has the same opportunity. I know that when I’m on my A game I’ve got full confidence in myself that I’ll be hard to beat. I love doing this. So when you think about it like that, there’s no pressure. It’s fun.”

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