LONDON, 12th August, 2017- A week ago, only a handful of people outside of the US had heard of Christian Coleman, the 21-year-old sprinter from Georgia. However, here in London, after he defeated Usain Bolt twice in the same day, claiming his first silver World Championship silver in the 100m final and completing the US one-two behind Justin Gatlin, he suddenly came into the spotlight. Fame? A future world record? ‘The Next Bolt’? Coleman doesn’t seem bothered by any of it: “I just want to focus on my game.”
And he seems pretty focused. Coleman is currently the only man on the planet to have an unbeaten record against Usain Bolt – two races – and two finishes ahead of the man dubbed the fastest in the world.
“Haha! It sounds crazy, it is definitely something that I will tell my grandchildren when I got old,” Coleman, who grew up watching the dominant Jamaican, is definitely enjoying his ‘unbeatable’ title.
This incredible achievement and the silver were however overshadowed by Usain Bolt, by Justin Gatlin, and by Bolt vs Gatlin.
“I do not really care about [being in the headlines], I care about competing and winning. I think when you have that kind of mindset, you can go down and make great things and media comes along with that.” Maybe, it’s this the attitude that will bring him to the top.
“He is the most humble athlete I had ever encountered. He doesn’t get excited about [being famous] a lot. He is very focus, goal oriented,” Coleman’s coach Tim Hall told AIPS, as he watched his star pupil being interviewed by journalists, sitting aside in the lounge room with AIPS as he talked about Coleman. “Is he even real?” Hall joked, before adding that in his mind, Coleman is the best student material – “goal oriented, determined, hardworking and more importantly, always focused.”
After working with the young talent for three college seasons, Hall has always believed the combo is destined for great because of how they met. “It was by the luck of draw.” Having first noticed Coleman, who won everything there was to win in track, during his senior year of high school when he visited Georgia, Hall saw that he was already wearing college colors of the University of Tennessee, while he coached at rivals University of Georgia.
“He got my attention and I was like who is this kid, but then I saw the Tennessee orange on and I am like “man!,” Hall remembered.
A year later though, they ended up meeting in the University of Tennessee after all. Hall decided to coach the university’s Volunteer's track and field team. Coleman, who had run track and played football simultaneously since a young age, chose a track scholarship at Tennessee after all, despite being offered football scholarships by other schools. This is how the story began.
Training with the Tennessee Volunteers, the young sprinter was known as “The Coolman” among his teammates. Hall clarified, “He is not cold, he is just always cool.” Coleman agreed with a laugh. “Just because I am the laid-back type of guy, nothing really gets to me. When the pressure is on, I always delivered.”
Well, he proved it. Starting from his first year at college, the boy from Georgia never stopped setting high goals, pushing himself step by step. From making the US 4x100m Olympic relay team in Rio while in his second year, albeit as a backup, to becoming only the second person after Gatlin to achieve double-double titles in indoor (60m and 200m) and outdoor (100m and 200m) nationals this season, the two have been undefeatable. It was one day though that Coleman told his coach “I want to beat Usain Bolt”, Hall recalled, “I said to myself, I have work to do.”
From college championships, to nationals, to the Olympic Games, and now the World Championships, Hall knew it is not going to be easy. “After the Olympics, he understand the importance of foundation, he had be stronger, he had to have the same level of fitness to attend the races throughout the season.” This is the reason why the pair spent most of the fall semester in the gym, where Coleman engaged in a series of weight and fitness trainings. Talking about his determination, the sprinter revealed that he even changed his nutrition to prepare for a super long journey, starting from January. As he shared on social media, he competed in 41 outdoors and indoors meets while clocking a personal best and world lead of 9.82 in the 100m last month and a silver medal in London.
He delivered a great season just like his favorite NFL team, beaten Superbowl finalists Atlanta Falcons. Having played football since the age of five and featuring as an all-state defensive back and wide receiver in high school, Coleman maintains that he still loves the sport despite choosing the track over the traditional NFL dream. And he still made a name for himself in football the iconic 40 yard dash.
As the standard measurement of speed in every season’s NFL draft, this season’s 40 yard dash went viral because in May, when John Ross broke the 9-year standing record with 4.24, and he declared he could beat Bolt in that distance. However, it was Coleman who came out and did it as he finished with a 4.12 that made him the fastest athlete in the entire NFL. Once again, it was Coleman’s actions that spoke.
And if his action and his runs bring more attention to his sport – all the better.
“(Athletics) just has to get more exposure, when people realize how great the athletes are in our sports, they will pay more attention and give more respect to them. In the future, we will keep pushing the sport forward,” Coleman said. Undoubtedly, he understands that the best way to promote his sport is to become the best in the world, and doing so with his own cool persona, rather than trying to be anyone else.
“Because he is so cool, I have to keep up my swag and be a cool coach too,” Hall adds. Talking about how the two always joked during training, about Coleman’s favorite hip-hop and rap music or Hall’s shoes collection, it is the “coolness” that make him one of the best sprinter in the world today.
“When the pressure is on, when the light is on, the beast, the competitiveness, the fierceness comes out. I don’t even know what a word to describe my type. Coleman, that’s just who I am, off the track I am that type of guy.” Focused, cool, the Coleman’s way.