Controversial Christian Coleman wins men’s 100m gold in Doha

Sean Ingle in Doha
Controversial Christian Coleman wins men’s 100m gold in Doha

The king is dead. Long live the king. Athletics has been scavenging around for someone to claim the world’s fastest man title since Usain Bolt’s retirement in 2017. In Christian Coleman, who blitzed to a stunning 100m gold medal here in Doha in 9.76sec, making him the sixth-fastest man in history, it has undoubtedly found him.

Some, like the legendary Michael Johnson, have suggested that the missed drugs tests that nearly derailed the 23-year-old American’s career last month might prevent him from becoming the face of his sport. But it is too late for that. For better or worse, that is what the softly spoken Coleman is now after claiming his first world title.

And long past midnight in the Khalifa International Stadium, he offered a spirited if sometimes odd defence of his reputation, repeatedly insisting he had not been careless despite missing a drugs test and two whereabouts failures in 12 months.

“I guess you are insinuating something happened but I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “I haven’t been careless. Everyone in this room has not been perfect. I am just a young black man living my dream, people are trying to smear my reputation.

“It is what it is, but I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing and focus on me,” he added. “Now I’m a world champion and that’s something that nobody can ever take away from me.”

Coleman was blunt on Johnson’s opinion too. “Michael Johnson doesn’t pay my bills and he doesn’t write my cheques,” he said. “I wouldn’t know who Michael Johnson was if he didn’t run fast times.”

The press conference was certainly more keenly contested than the final, which was done and dusted when Coleman established clear blue water over the field.

Justin Gatlin, who of course has a past of his own, ran faster than any 37-year-old in history to take silver in 9.89 while the Canadian Andre De Grasse was third in 9.90. But Britain’s Zharnel Hughes, who had been talked up as an outside medal prospect, was a disappointing sixth in 10.03.

“My body wasn’t feeling up for it unfortunately,” admitted Hughes. “When I pushed out I was all over the place and I lost my form.

“I was charged up for the race but as the gun banged I started feeling light headed for some reason and I tried my best to get composure and every time I tried to do something which was relaxing it just kept getting worse.”

This was the first major championships without Bolt since 2005, and the lack of crowds suggested the sport was missing its biggest star – and its greatest crutch. There has been much talk ever since on the need to jazz up the sport, and the IAAF certainly tried before the 100m final.

First the lights across the stadium went dark and the track lit up. Then disco music began to play and after the spotlight had focused on each athlete, the lights went back up and the sprinters were called to their blocks. The problem was that at this point the stadium was at least half empty, not that it bothered Coleman, who quickly blasted clear of the field.

Elsewhere the most exciting race of the night came in the women’s 10,000m as the Dutch athlete Sifan Hassan reeled in a pack of Kenyans and Ethiopians before sprinting clear of Letesenbet Gidey on the final lap to win her first world title in 30:17.63. What made the achievement even more incredible was that the 26-year-old Hassan ran the final 1500m of the race in under four minutes.

The biggest shock, meanwhile, came in the men’s long jump as the Jamaican Tajay Gayle recorded the 10th-longest leap in history – breaking his personal best by 37cm – to win gold in 8.69m, well clear of Jeff Henderson, who took silver, and Juan Miguel Echevarría, who won bronze.