Coleman’s season opener of 6.37 from a couple of weeks ago was already lower than Maurice Greene’s previous record of 6.39 from 1998, but the the time hasn’t even been ratified by the IAAF before the 60m final of the 2018 USA Track & Field Indoor Championships. That’s when Coleman scorched up the track yet again and improved his world record down to 6.34 seconds.

I think we can all agree that he is the real deal. He beat Usain Bolt in the semis and the finals of the 2017 World Champs and is now clearly the best 60m indoor sprinter of all time.

Having said that, here are some of my thoughts on the current buzz around Coleman:

1) “His start wasn’t great.”

My take: frankly, I don’t agree with this at all. Of course only he knows the truth, but to my eye his start seemed pretty good. His reaction time of 0.149s was very good, but it didn’t seem like he flew past everyone because Ronnie Baker (to his left) had an exceptional start and actually ran a phenomenal time. Baker is now 3rd on the all-time list, but his achievement is understandably in the shadow of his compatriot.

60M INDOOR ALL TIME TOP 8

6.34  Christian Coleman  (2018)
6.35
6.36
6.37
6.38
6.39  Maurice Greene  (1998, 2001)
6.40  Ronnie Baker  (2018)
6.41  Andre Cason  (1992)
6.42  Dwain Chambers  (2009)
6.43  Tim Harden  (1999)
6.43  Su Bingtian  (2018)
6.44  Asafa Powell  (2016) 

I borrowed this list from Pierre-Jean Vazel on facebook.

2) “He can challenge Bolt’s 100m world record of 9.58 …”

My take: In short, not yet. The 100m is a totally different beast, but I do admit that it’s interesting to speculate. So let’s speculate.

The biomechanics report from the 2009 World Championships in Berlin indicates that Usain Bolt covered the first 60m of his 100m record-breaking run in 6.29 or 6.31 [1]. But we mustn’t forget that he had a following wind of 0.9 m/s, which is theoretically worth close to 0.05 seconds in the 100m.

On the other hand, Albuquerque, New Mexico — where Coleman ran his 60m — is at an altitude of around 1,600m or close to a mile. This effectively makes it an altitude-assisted run.

Bolt’s 60m split without his reaction time of 0.146 was either 6.15 or 6.17. If we do the same subtraction for Coleman’s run, we get 6.20. This indicates that — as far as 60m sprinting goes — Coleman already seems to be pretty close to where Bolt was at his peak.

Interestingly enough, Bolt was around 22 to 23 years old at his absolute best in 2008 & 2009, and his decline in times started at 26 after the 2012 London Olympics. Coleman is similar in that he will be 22 on March 6th, so he seems to be hitting his lifetime peak at around the same age as Bolt.

So the big question is whether Coleman can match Bolt’s final 40 meters. In my humble opinion that’s the one aspect of the race where I highly doubt that he will ever be able to match Usain. This was already evident in the final of the 2017 World Champs where Coleman exploded out of the blocks, but struggled to maintain speed in the latter parts of the race.

bolt-coleman comparison1
100m final at the 2017 World Championships. Click on the image for a higher resolution.

There was a clear meter between them at around 60 meters, but Bolt had a strong finish and Coleman only managed to beat him by 0.01 seconds.

Though we have to take into account that Coleman had an extremely long 2017 season. He was running from college indoors in the winter all the way to outdoor Worlds in August. This must have taken a toll on his body, so it’s likely that his finishing strength wasn’t quite where it could have been.

If Coleman manages to replicate his 60m split on a 100m track, he’ll have to run around 3.30s for the last 40m (Bolt did it in 3.27 or 3.29). It’s possible, especially with a good wind behind his back, but he’ll have to come close to Bolt’s top speed of over 44 kph.

3) “He can challenge Bolt’s 200m world record of 19.19 …”

My take: not at all. His only sub-20 run is 19.85 and there is no indication that he has the speed endurance to run anywhere close to 19 flat. I don’t think he’s even the best 200m sprinter in the country. Noah Lyles and Ameer Webb are probably better at the moment.

4) “He is the next sub 9.70 sprinter.”

My take: it’s likely, which is very exciting to say the least. He would become the fourth man to do it after Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay and Yohan Blake. I certainly don’t think that anyone else has that kind of ability at the moment.

I can’t wait to see him on the Diamond League circuit and with fresher legs than last year.


Whatever the case may be when it comes to Coleman’s potential, one thing is clear: he is leading the way for a new generation of extremely talented sprinters.

You will not want to miss the men’s 60m event at the 2018 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham (2nd – 4th of March).


References
[1] Jürgen Schiffer, Rolf Graubner, Eberhard Nixdorf. Biomechanical Analysis of the Sprint and Hurdles Events at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Athletics
(pages 23, 26).

Žiga P. Škraba