Christian Coleman celebrates winning gold in the Men's 100 Meters final at the 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 on Sept. 28, 2019 in Doha, Qatar.
DOHA, Qatar - The competitors in the men’s 100-meter stood by their blocks as Khalifa International Stadium went dark Saturday night at the IAAF World Championships.
“The whole crowd was like, ‘Ooooooohhhhh,’” said Justin Gatlin.
Suddenly the track lit up with a golden glow and each athlete was introduced with his name rolling down the straightaway in giant letters.
While the names all moved at the same rate of speed, when the gun went off Christian Coleman ran away with the race.
The 23-year-old from the south side of Atlanta joined an exclusive club by running a blistering 9.76 seconds, adding his name to the illustrious list of Team USA world champions in the 100 meters.
That list also includes Gatlin (2017 and 2005), who at the age of 37 won the silver medal behind Coleman in a reversal of their finish at worlds in London two years ago.
The other American world champions are Tyson Gay (2007), Maurice Greene (1997, 1999 and 2001) and Carl Lewis (1983, 1987 and 1991).
All but Gay won Olympic gold medals and Coleman is now the odds-on favorite to stand at the top of the podium at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
“I had confidence before,” said Coleman, who will also run the 200 here, “but I feel like any time to be able to step to the line and come out with a win, and on top of a field like that, it just gives you a confidence boost moving forward and knowing that no matter what the circumstances I’m up against, no matter how I’m feeling, I can always fight back from it and come out on top.”
Gatlin won his ninth world championships medal to edge Olympic bronze medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada 9.89 to 9.90.
Gatlin, who has a small patch of gray hair on top of his head, said his age wasn’t a factor.
“Someone gave me the quick math and I’m 14 years older than Christian,” he said with a laugh. I was already a teenager, about to drive, when he was born.
“But I think it’s just the ability, the mindset, Christian came on the scene and Noah (Lyles, the top 200-meter runner) came on the scene. They wanted to make a mark for themselves and I wanted to stay true to what my goals are, to stay in the sport and give it my all. It was good enough to be able to get on the podium and I’m happy with that.”
Coleman trimmed .05 off his world-leading time of 9.81 seconds and moved into sixth place on the all-time list behind Usain Bolt of Jamaica (9.58), Gay (9.69), Jamaica’s Yohan Blake (9.69) and Asafa Powell (9.72) and Gatlin (9.74).
Coleman was in command the whole race, blasting out of the blocks and then opening up space between himself and the others.
He said he knew he would win from the start. “I got out on top of it, just stood up and ran, dipped at the finish line and I was the world champion,” Coleman said. “So I feel like I executed it from start to finish.”
He let out a whoop and beat his chest after crossing the line. Coleman said his parents, Atlanta educators who were in the stands, are his inspiration.
“When I step to the line, it’s not just me, it’s my whole family, my whole support system, my whole village that got me here,” said Coleman. “They tell me all the time that they feel tired at the end of a race because they were running right there with me.”
Gatlin’s podium finish added to his long resume dating back to the Olympic Games 2004, where he won the gold medal. He also won the Olympic bronze medal in 2012 and the silver medal in 2016, as well as the bronze in the 200 in 2004.
At worlds, Gatlin now has three gold and six silver medals. He was also the runner-up in the 100 in 2013 and 2015, giving him a streak of four straight medals in the incredibly competitive event.
He had been injured earlier in the season and said he had “a question mark over my head if I was going to be even race-ready to come out to Doha.
Gatlin was third in his semifinal, so qualified on time. The top 2 finishers had a “Q” next to their name, while he had a “q.”
“I haven’t had a little “q” by my name in a while,” Gatlin said. “A lot of people were scratching their heads even after the semis and said, ‘Oh, are you even going to make it to the finals or make it to the podium? But that’s what track and field’s about, it’s about seizing the moment and that’s what I did.”
While the medal could be a reason to prolong his career to 2021, when the United States will host the world championships for the first time in Eugene, Oregon, Gatlin said he’s not thinking about that now.
“All I’m thinking about it some beer, some pizza, some hot dogs,” he said. “Kick my feet up, watch some cartoons with my son and just enjoy myself for a little bit before I get started for Tokyo 2020.”
Two years ago Gatlin and Coleman spoiled the final 100 for Bolt, who had won three world titles.
With Bolt retired, and not even an ambassador for the sport in Doha, is Coleman the new face of track and field?
“That’s just not something that I really focus on,” Coleman said. “I think that we have so many guys who are hungry, want to win, are competitive, really talented and great athletes, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be one guy. I think the era that Bolt was dominating, it just so happened to be him -- he was just winning everything and running spectacular times.
“But there’s so many people who are dong really good things right now. I think everybody should be celebrated, it doesn’t’ necessarily have to be one face. I’m just happy to be part of that group.”
Before arriving in Doha, Coleman was suspected of a “whereabouts” violation by USADA, which dropped the case in time for him to be eligible to run. However, Coleman has taken a lot of flack.
“It’s pretty disheartening to know that there’s people out there saying things like that especially when they don’t know me personally at all,” he said.
“I feel like at this point I’m just over it. I was talking with my agent and I feel like I wanted to explain the situation and let people know and I thought logic would prevail in the situation, but obviously people just think what they want to think. I can’t spend much time explaining a situation to people who aren’t interested in the truth. So I was just not focused on that at all.”