BIRMINGHAM, England — Christian Coleman doesn’t want to be known as the next Usain Bolt.
The 21-year-old American is emerging as the first sprint star of the post-Bolt era but Coleman is keen to leave his own mark.
“He’s an icon, he’s done so much for the sport, really pushed the sport forward,” Coleman said on Friday at the world indoor championships. “There’ll always be those kind of comparisons but I want to step out.
“I don’t want to be the next Usain Bolt, I want to be Christian Coleman, and in a few years from now maybe have people saying, ‘Who’ll be the next Christian Coleman?’ I want to leave my own legacy, make my own trail. That’s where my journey is about right now and it’s off to a pretty good start.”
Coleman made his breakthrough in Bolt’s farewell race at last year’s world championships, clinching a silver medal in the 100 meters. He was ahead of the retiring Jamaican, and behind Justin Gatlin.
Seven months on, Coleman is back in England and a world-record holder, having shattered Maurice Greene’s 20-year-old mark of 6.39 in the men’s 60, shaving 0.05 seconds off at the U.S. indoors in February.
Coleman, who admits it still hasn’t really sunk in, was even able to raise his arm in celebration as he crossed the line, indicating he could be capable of something equally special in Saturday’s final, even without the benefit of the high altitude he had in Albuquerque.
“I felt pretty good in practice just now and I’m really excited, it’s going to be a fast race with the most competition so I’m excited about it,” he says. “If the world record comes I’ll take it but I’m just going out there trying to win.”
Coleman faces stiff competition. Former U.S. champion Ronnie Baker finished the race in Albuquerque with a personal best of 6.40, moving him up to third on the all-time list. China’s Su Bingtian is unbeaten this year.
“I guess Ronnie’s run a pretty fast time this year, too, and so has Su from China so those are the two biggest competitors but I don’t take anyone lightly,” Coleman said.
His emergence may seem sudden but it is down to the youngster’s incredible work ethic.
He has always trained hard and constantly watches films of his races to see how he can get even a millisecond faster.
“There’s always stuff you can improve on. Even when you do something right you can always try to go out and do something better and improve,” Coleman said. “I have that mindset going into anything I do, there’s always room to improve, you can always do better.
“This is my first full professional season so for me it’s a learning process, figuring everything out, figuring what works for me. Everything is going to be new and I’m just excited and ready to show the world what I can do.”