Saturday 19 January 2019

Season's fastest man Coleman is ready to rain on Bolt's parade

Christian Coleman. Photo: Getty Images
Christian Coleman. Photo: Getty Images

Ben Bloom

A lot can be gleaned from a goodbye. For many sports people, time spent talking to the media is an exercise in finishing the job with minimal pain.

How many times can a person be asked the same questions? But while wrapping up and thanking Christian Coleman for putting up with my queries, he interjects: "No, I thank you for your time, truly."

It is a mark of how new this entire experience is to him and it is impossible not to be charmed by that. Still a college student at the University of Tennessee, this is the first time Coleman (21) has spoken to a journalist outside of the United States. He has never been to Europe before and he readily admits that most people "have never even heard of me".

Which might only be the case for three more days. Because Coleman is the fastest man in the world this year - and if he achieves his dream of raining on Usain Bolt's retirement parade at the World Championships this weekend, everyone will know his name.

First the numbers: Coleman's 9.82-second 100 metres time set in Eugene in June is significantly faster than anyone else has managed this season - next on the list is Yohan Blake with 9.90sec.

Coleman has broken 10 seconds on no fewer than six occasions this year. By contrast, Bolt has run just three races, dipping below 10 seconds once. So has Coleman allowed himself to think how much his life might have changed by 10pm on Saturday night?

"It would be crazy to beat Bolt," he says. "It would open the door for a lot of people to see me, who have never even heard of me before because I've never run on the pro circuit. It's definitely pretty exciting. If I get the opportunity to make it to the final and line up next to him I'll be sure to take in the situation and remember the moment.

"I always shoot for the stars and even if you don't make it that far, you end up pretty high. My goal is to go out and try to get gold."

The Coleman story began in Atlanta, Georgia, where he started sprinting aged five, before putting athletics on the back burner at high school. He was intent on making it in the world of American football, but when the athletics college offers rolled in he returned to his first love and headed just up the road to the University of Tennessee.

After breaking 10 seconds for the first time last year, he was selected as part of the US 4x100m team for the Rio Olympics, where he admits he was "like a deer in headlights - I was pretty much a nobody".

He ran only in the heats in Brazil, before returning to his dual life as a sports management major and college sprinter. But his success this year resulted in Nike snapping him up on a seven-figure deal in June, meaning he will now forego the final year of eligibility to run for Tennessee and instead join the professional circuit next campaign.

As well as the financial benefits, the change will allow him to operate outside of the gruelling world of college athletics, in which athletes compete around the US week in, week out. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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