Andre De Grasse, Christian Coleman set for 100m showdown
Two of the world’s top young sprinters will renew acquaintances on the track next month for the first time since 2015 after a scheduled showdown at the world championships last summer didn’t materialize because of injury.
Canada’s Andre De Grasse and 2018 world indoor 60-metre champion Christian Coleman of the United States will go head-to-head in the men’s 100 metres at the Diamond League meet at Shanghai Stadium in China on May 12.
“I think track and field got to a place where people were dodging each other and one of the things I did was to not dodge anyone,” says Bailey, the 1996 Olympic 100 champion-turned CBC Sports analyst. “If I think I’m the best and I can prepare and race [a top opponent] why not?
“Christian is the established star, a world-record holder and also has titles, and Andre doesn’t. Andre really needs to nip that in the bud, so this is a great [opportunity] for him.”
De Grasse makes his return to racing this Saturday at the Drake Relays after being forced to withdraw from worlds last August in London, England, with a right hamstring injury. He last raced Coleman in the 100 semifinals at the 2015 NCAA Division I outdoor track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., where the USC junior clocked 9.98 seconds to finish second in a field of 21. Coleman, then a Tennessee freshman, was 15th in 10.19 and didn’t qualify for the final.
But the 22-year-old Atlanta native has made strides and impressed Bailey by running 9.94 to win a world silver medal at London Stadium, trailing only fellow American Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion. Jamaican legend and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt finished third in 9.95 before entering retirement.
Justin Gatlin, left, narrowly beat fellow American Christian Coleman, middle, for gold in the men’s 100 metres at the world track and field championships last August in London, England. Coleman finished in 9.94 seconds to beat Jamaican legend Usain Bolt, right, who retired after the race.( Andy Lyons/Getty Images for IAAF/File)
“He’s young and fearless,” Bailey said of Coleman, who ran 6.34 at the U.S. indoor national championships to shatter 2000 Olympic champion Maurice Greene’s 20-year-old world indoor 60 record. Coleman was thought to have broken it with a 6.37 effort at January’s Clemson Invitational in South Carolina but it wasn’t ratified due to the lack of electronic starting blocks and on-site drug testing.
“He’s definitely a big-race athlete who shows up and wants to win,” Bailey added. “Fundamentally, he’s what I would want any track athlete to be.
“He ran indoors [this season] to improve his starts … and we’re going to see how he transitions [to the 100]. He’s ready to take the mantle” of being the world No. 1.
He’s the up-and-coming runner and I’m looking forward to the challenge and rivalry.— Canadian sprint star Andre De Grasse on young American Christian Coleman
Considered America’s next great sprinter, the five-foot-nine Coleman will be making his Diamond League debut in Shanghai and is the only man other than Gatlin to win collegiate titles in the 60 and 200 indoors and 100 and 200 outdoors the same year.
He also broke 10 seconds nine times in 2017, including a 9.82 personal best last June, and is the reigning winner of the Bowerman Award as the top collegiate track and field athlete.
At indoor worlds, he told reporters that he has “a good chance to lead the sport in the post-Usain Bolt era.
“I think it’s good. Everyone feels confident and they want to be the best,” De Grasse, 23, told CBC Sports last week. “I want to be dominant but I always want to be able to say I’ve raced and beat the best. He’s the up-and-coming runner and I’m looking forward to the challenge and rivalry.”
‘Andre needs to establish himself’
Last week, De Grasse cautioned fans not to expect an immediate return to his form of 2016 when the Markham, Ont., native won three medals at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, including bronze in the 100 with a personal-best time of 9.91.
De Grasse last raced on July 16, 2017 in Rabat, Morocco, where he set a meet record of 20.03 in the 200, his fourth consecutive Diamond League victory on the heels of a double gold performance at the Canadian championships in Ottawa.
“Andre needs to get the rust off and make it a rivalry [with Coleman],” said Bailey, adding he expects one to form as the season progresses. “Andre needs to get out there and establish himself. I have full trust and full belief that Andre will play a significant part in the world of sprinting this year.
“Christian, right now, is head and shoulders above [De Grasse] in competition and has been consistent over the past two years. Andre has had some injuries he has to treat and rest. We’ll see what the psychological and mental edge is the first race they compete against each other.”
De Grasse and Coleman have also committed to race the 100 at the Müller Anniversary Games in London, England, on July 21-22.