Fascinating games

‘Resilient’ Coleman returns from Millrose Games ban

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New York (AFP) – 100-meter world champion Christian Coleman returns to athletics on Saturday after two years of absence, determined to “have fun” after the doping suspension which forced him to miss the Olympics last year.

The 25-year-old sprinter leads a star-studded field at the indoor meet at the Millrose Games in New York, where he will race in a high-quality 60m that also includes 200m world champion Noah Lyles.

This is the first major event Coleman has appeared in since February 2020 and his first appearance since serving an 18-month suspension for a whereabouts anti-doping rule violation.

Coleman, who in all likelihood would have been the favorite in the 100m at the Tokyo Olympics last year had it not been for his suspension, says he is grateful to have finally got his career back on track this weekend.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself,” he told AFP on Friday when asked about his absence from the competition.

“I feel like I learned a lot about life in general, you know, what the most important things in life are. I learned to separate myself from myself as a person on the track and to how resilient I am.

“I’m just proud of myself to have come back to this point and grateful to be here and to compete in the future. I’m looking forward to the next few years, it’s going to be quite exciting.”

As well as his 100m world crown, Coleman is also the reigning 60m world indoor champion after winning gold at the 2018 World Championships in Birmingham.

He also holds the world record over the distance of 6.34 seconds, although Coleman said on Friday he was not aiming for the times this weekend.

“I try not to focus on the times,” he said. “I don’t want to be disappointed if I don’t run for a while.

“I just want to go out and compete and try to win… You go out and compete and when you’re a competitor, times come with it.”

‘No pressure’

Coleman, who hopes to compete at this year’s indoor world championships in Belgrade in March before defending his title at the outdoor world championships, which will be held in Eugene, Oregon in July, says he has been encouraged by the times recorded in training.

Christian Coleman reacts after winning 100m gold at the Doha 2019 World Championships Karim Jaafar at AFP

“We just started doing more speed training, about a month,” he said. “I have a good momentum going into this competition. I feel pretty good.

“I put in some good times in training so I’m excited to go out there and compete again and see where I end up…have fun and see what the clock says.”

While his presence on the court in New York this weekend will make him the center of attention, Coleman says he doesn’t feel any added pressure upon his return.

“I absolutely want to win as a competitor,” Coleman said. “That’s what athletics is. You want to get to that line first. But I don’t necessarily feel any pressure.

“That’s the fun part. You do all the work off season and then you get the chance to compete. Go ahead, have fun and see what happens.”

As well as world 200m champion Lyles, Saturday’s 60m line-up also includes Trayvon Bromell, the 2016 world 60m champion and the world’s fastest man in the 100m last year with a record staff of 9.76 seconds.

Lyles, meanwhile, is looking forward to competing in front of fans this weekend after the disappointment of performing to an empty arena at last year’s pandemic-postponed Tokyo Olympics.

“It was just dead silence in that stadium,” Lyles said Friday of his Olympic experience.

“All I could think of was ‘Wow, this is my first Olympics and I can’t even get a crowd.’ They hardly let athletes come and see their teammates. It was a disappointment.”