2018 was a season of highs and lows for Christian Coleman. In January, he lowered the old 60m indoor world record down to a scintillating time of 6.34 seconds (read more of my thoughts about it here) but then had to contend with a hamstring injury which made him watch most of the rest of the season from the sidelines.

He managed to get back in shape just in time for the Diamond League final in Brussels where he, rather surprisingly, joined the “magnificent seven” — the elite group of men who have run under 9.80 seconds in the 100m.

100M ALL TIME: SUB 9.80 MEN (Personal Bests only)

1. 9.58  Usain Bolt 
2. 9.69  Tyson Gay 
2. 9.69  Yohan Blake 
4. 9.72  Asafa Powell   
5. 9.74  Justin Gatlin 
6. 9.78  Nesta Carter 
7. 9.79  Maurice Greene  
7. 9.79  Christian Coleman  

It was the first sub 9.80 performance since 2015 when Usain Bolt beat Justin Gatlin in Beijing’s famous Bird’s Nest Stadium to win his last 100m World Championship title. Coleman’s run was an authoritative step in reestablishing the American sprint dominance after almost a decade of being in the shadow of the tall Jamaican.

Coleman, of course, wasn’t the only American with stellar results in 2018. Noah Lyles was dominant in the 200m, running no less than FOUR 19.6 times in a single season – a feat previously achieved only by Usain Bolt.

The NCAA produced another spectacular quarter-miler, Michael Norman from the University of South California. His run of 43.62 is the 11th fastest time ever, and it makes him the 6th fastest man in history.

Norman Smiling at NCAA
We may have to get used to this smile on the international circuit. Norman is a prodigious talent and many people believe that he has the ability to threaten the world record. I’m not entirely sure about that just yet, but he is definitely the best American 400m sprinter since Jeremy Wariner who has a PB of 43.45 from 2007.

Norman’s colleague and training partner, Rai Benjamin, hurdled through the 400m in just 47.02 seconds, posting the joint third fastest time in history.

But perhaps the craziest stat?

Coleman is 22, while Norman, Benjamin, and Lyles are all just 21 years old …

Who can stop the Americans in 2019?

Doha will host the 2019 World Championships and the American youngsters are poised to make a bang. Their individual prowess can only be amplified once they line up for the relays — a stumbling block for the Americans in the era of Usain Bolt, but I feel like the new generation has the mental game to keep the baton in safe hands (literally).

100m

Barring any injuries, Christian Coleman is my favourite in the shortest sprint distance, but the competition will be tough, especially from his compatriots. There’s Ronnie Baker who already gave him a run for his money even in the 60m, and who seems to have a slight advantage in the closing stages of the 100m race where Coleman’s shorter stature starts to become a slight disadvantage.

I feel like Jamaica doesn’t really have anyone with a realistic shot here, unless Yohan Blake somehow finds his former self — an unlikely prospect in my eyes. The next generation hasn’t really kicked into gear yet.

Andre de Grasse
Will the Canadian Andre De Grasse rediscover his top form in time for the biggest event of the year? He has proven himself to be a mentally tough racer on many occasions, but does he have the raw talent to compete with America’s finest?

It will be interesting to see if Noah Lyles — who is primarily a 200m athlete — decides to give it a go in the 100m. I would certainly back him to run some blistering times.

Bingtian Su of China seems to be in great shape, but I find it hard to believe that he would be able to take the crown in sprinting’s blue ribbon event.

In the women’s event, things are much more open. The reigning world champion Tori Bowie of the USA will definitely be one of the favourites, but the rest of the World has some great talent to offer in this event. I feel like the big threats are the Ivorians Marie-Josée Ta Lou and Murielle Ahouré. Great Britain has Dina Asher-Smith who finally seems to be fulfilling her potential on the biggest stage. She is the reigning European champion in both the 100m and 200m, so I really hope she gets to Doha in top shape.

And what about Elaine Thompson? Well, after her stellar performances in the 2016 Olympics, she didn’t quite meet all expectations. But she has that Jamaican’s carefree attitude and she could definitely be a big threat for gold.

200m

This is the one event where I’m absolutely certain about who will win — Noah Lyles. He didn’t compete at the 2017 World Championships due to injury, but he has proven himself to be by far the best 200m sprinter since Bolt’s retirement. His combination of speed and a gazelle-like stride is a joy to watch and I strongly believe that he is currently the only athlete who could go under 19.6 seconds.

Ramil Guliyev and Jereem Richards are worthy mentions, but I simply don’t believe that they have what it takes to compete with an in-form Lyles.

Allyson Felix
Allyson Felix is the most decorated female athlete of all time with no less than 16 World Championships medals. She had a baby in 2018 so it will be interesting to see if she can ready herself for another shot at the podiums.

Shaunae Miller-Uibo is my favourite among women, but her issue will always be that she is also a 400m sprinter. Will she go for the double? She has stiff competition in the longer event, so it will not be an easy task.

Dafne Schippers will be defending her title for the second time in a row and she is the fastest woman of this generation with 21.63. But that was in 2015 and there is no indication that she will ever be in that sort of shape again.

400m

Wayde van Niekerk recently talked about focusing on the 400m which is a relief for those of us who believed that he shouldn’t compromise by doing the longer sprint double. Apparently, he is now completely focused on becoming the first man to run sub 43 in the 400m.

Rio Olympics Athletics
Religious or not, we should all be praying that Wayde van Niekerk overcomes his injury. He has proven that running faster than 43 seconds is possible in the 400m, but will he also be the first human to actually do it? He has started his comeback in February, but does he have enough time until the start of the World Championships at the end of September?

The 400m has such incredible depth at the moment so I really really wish that all the top guys make it to Doha. There are so many questions to be answered.

Will Wayde van Niekerk return back to his glory after his unfortunate rugby injury?

What will happen if Norman lines up against van Niekerk? They have both been dominant in their own races, so how will they fare against each other?

What about Fred Kerley, Kirani James, and Steven Gardiner? All of them have the ability to go deep inside 44 seconds.

It’s shaping up to be a truly mouthwatering contest.

Phyllis Francis is the surprise defending champion in the womem’s event but I find it hard to believe that she will be able to repeat that feat. The youngster Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain is looking like the top favourite in my eyes and even Miller-Uibo will have a hard time against her.

Allyson Felix has been focused on the longest sprint in the last couple of years, so she will definitely be a contender if she qualifies for the event.

Conclusion

All in all, it’s shaping up to be a fantastic year for sprinting. The competition will be ramping up all throughout the very long season. It will all culminate at the World Championships in Doha in late September.

The event will close on my Birthday on October 6th. I do have a couple of wishes but I will keep them to myself until then. 🙂

Žiga P.  Škraba