By Gene Cherry
DESMOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – Hamstring injuries kept Christian Coleman out of last year’s U.S. championships, but the world 100 metres silver medallist is going all out at this week’s nationals/world championships trials.
While many of his competitors are concentrating on one event, Coleman, the year’s fastest man at 100m and joint seventh fastest at 200m, will be on the track every day, seeking titles in both events at the four-day meeting that begins on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.
“Why not?” Coleman told Reuters when asked about the double.
After all the 23-year-old ran both in college, taking the collegiate titles in the 60 and 200 indoors and the 100 and 200 outdoors in 2017.
This time, the stakes will be higher with a spot in September’s world championships on offer for those who finish in the top three at the U.S. trials.
Coleman wants both as well as a place on the U.S. relay team.
“I feel like I would be doing a disservice to myself if, after the 100, I didn’t see where the chips fall in the 200,” he said.
“Obviously my strong suit is the 100 so that is what my main focus is on,” he added. “I feel like that is where I have my best shot at getting my (world championship) gold medal.
“But I feel I can compete with the best of them in the 200 as well.”
That means challenging Noah Lyles, the fastest 200m runner since Usain Bolt won the 2012 Olympic title and the man with whom Coleman is jockeying to be America’s best sprinter.
Lyles won their only meeting this year, a 100m in Shanghai, and Coleman let it be known afterward there would be another round.
“Some of y’all got the game messed up,” Coleman said on Twitter. “The name of the game is World medals. But PRin in May is cool for social media doe.”
Asked about their relationship a few days later, Lyles told NBC Sports, “He just never liked me. I don’t know. You can’t like everybody.”
So the rivalry stepped up a notch.
Round two could come on Sunday if they both make the trials’ 200m final.
NBC analyst Ato Boldon is predicting another victory for Lyles.
“I don’t expect him (Coleman) to really challenge Noah.” the four-times Olympic sprint medallist told Reuters. “I don’t think he has the skill set that Noah has in the 200.”
But Boldon likes the fact Coleman is running the longer sprint.
“Chase a PR (personal best). Improve your value on the circuit and quite frankly, it is going to help your 100,” the broadcaster said.
Who will step up to challenge Coleman in the trials’ 100 is open to speculation.
Much depends on what 37-year-old Justin Gatlin does.
Gatlin, the 100m world champion after his win over Bolt in 2017, needs only to show fitness to collect a wild card to the world championships.
He can do that by running one round of the 100, but is leaving the door open for more.
“One round so far,” Gatlin, who has been the surprise of the sprint season with two Diamond League victories, said in a text to Reuters.
Both he and Coleman are alumni of the University of Tennessee, and though rivals on the track, “It’s always cool vibes” when they talk, said Coleman, who beat Gatlin at the Prefontaine Classic.
It was afterward Gatlin began his European streak.
“It’s definitely impressive but it’s really not a shocker,” Coleman said.
“I know how hard he works and as you have seen, he’s a competitor. He’s one of those guys you can never count out.”
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Des Moines, Iowa; Editing by Christian Radnedge)