The next Usain Bolt? I don’t listen to that, insists Christian Coleman

MATT MAJENDIE
World beater: Coleman set the global record across 60m in February: Getty Images

In many ways, Christian Coleman is everything that Usain Bolt is not and yet the American cannot shake off the comparisons.

Bolt’s start-line and post-race histrionics have been laid to rest with his retirement after London 2017 while, in contrast, Coleman gives merely the faintest of nods to the cameras before taking to his starting blocks.

In addition, Coleman is diminutive in comparison to the 6ft 5in Bolt. He is 5ft 8in, which meant he was deemed too small to be a wide receiver in American football at college, so athletics became the next sporting option.

And yet Coleman is understandably being heralded as the next Bolt, the potential new sprint king set to return this summer to the scene of the moment he toppled the fastest man in history at the London Stadium.

At the 2017 World Championships, Bolt was finally made to look a mere mortal, finishing third in the 100metre final as Justin Gatlin took gold to Coleman’s silver.

Coleman, 22, said: “To be able to race Bolt before his retirement and to beat him across the line, I don’t know how to describe that.

“He’s an icon of the sport, I’ve looked up to him for so long so to run along with him in his last Championships — wow! But I don’t pay much attention to whether I’m the next Bolt as he can never be replaced. All I’m trying to do is to etch my name in history, to try to become one of the greatest sprinters of all time.”

In that quest, Coleman has already made a fast start, breaking Maurice Greene’s 60m world record, which had stood for two decades, with a time of 6.34sec.

He came close to setting a new mark at the World Indoors in Birmingham when he clocked 6.37sec in winning gold. It has left him with an affinity for the UK and he is relishing being reacquainted with London in particular at the Anniversary Games in July, in which his participation was announced yesterday.

“I love running in London,” he says. “The UK track and field audience is great and the atmosphere was amazing in London.”

His speed has turned heads but Coleman himself is not surprised.

He says: “I’m not shocked as I know how much work I put in but, if you asked me two years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I’d got this far by now. Take the world record — I wasn’t shooting for that this season but it happened.”

It leads to the question of whether he can eclipse Bolt’s dual outdoor world records of 9.58 and 19.19sec for the 100m and 200m respectively.

“I don’t have a career goal like that,” he said. “Instead it’s just to run as fast as I can and win. I’m way ahead of where I was last year and I know what I’m capable of but I don’t want to put a limit on things and I don’t want a goal on time.”

Gatlin and Coleman pip Bolt to the line in London (Getty Images for IAAF)

While Coleman’s senior global medals have all come on British soil — double silver in London last year and the 60m crown in Birmingham this month — for him the turning point came at the Rio Olympics where he was dropped for the 4x100m final, in which the US got disqualified.

Since then, he has gone from being under the radar to the most talked about sprinter on the planet, a facet he relishes. “If you do well people talk about you and I love the pressure that brings,” he said.

On the evidence of London and Birmingham, he is undeterred by the spotlight. In London at the Anniversary Games as elsewhere this season, he will go in with the same mindset of being the affable former US college kid, which drastically switches in the call room.

WORLD RECORD!! 6.37s. Great start to my career. Thank You God]]>🙏🏾