Christian Coleman

Track and field already has great stories. It doesn't need a savior

Track and field already has great stories. It doesn't need a savior

BIRMINGHAM, England — Predictably, the American sprinter Christian Coleman is already being hailed as the next this, the next that, already being asked if he can run 100 meters faster than 9.58 seconds.

What is it about track and field, this almost-desperate need -- in some if not many quarters -- to anoint someone as savior?

No one is savior. No one needs to be the almighty. It’s an unfair ask. Who, alone, carries a sport in baseball, basketball, football, hockey or soccer? Why, then, track and field?

Coleman, just 21, is an outrageous talent. A few weeks ago, at the U.S. nationals, at altitude in Albuquerque, he broke the world indoor record for 60 meters, running 6.34 seconds. On Saturday night, here at the 2018 world indoor championships, he went a championship-record 6.37, five ticks faster than Mo Greene's 6.42 from 1999.

Here's why track and field needs to change

Here's why track and field needs to change

LONDON — Coming into these 2017 IAAF world championships, the American Fred Kerley was the next big thing in the men’s 400.

More precisely, Fred Kerley of Texas A&M was the next big thing. He came to London having run 15 individual 400s in 2017. He had won 15.

It didn’t go Kerley’s way in the 400 final. He finished seventh, a result pre-figured in the semifinal, when he just barely qualified for the final on time. This is not to beat on Kerley. Just the opposite. It’s to pay him respect. He’s 22, and — counting the rounds and the final here — he ran 18 400s this year, plus a bunch of relays, plus some 200s to boot.

The 2017 IAAF world championships disconnect

The 2017 IAAF world championships disconnect

LONDON — No matter if it’s sports or what journalists call hard news, all young reporters learn early on a truism. Whether it’s a big court case, a political race or a major sports event like these 2017 IAAF track and field world championships or an NFL Super Bowl, there are always — always — at least two storylines.

There’s the action itself.

And then there’s what’s happening around it.

With the 2017 worlds nearing the halfway mark, it’s entirely unclear whether they seem destined to be remembered for the track and field itself, which truly has been remarkable if not historic.

The truth: Justin Gatlin, from despair to destiny

The truth: Justin Gatlin, from despair to destiny

LONDON — They introduced Justin Gatlin to the Olympic Stadium crowd here Sunday evening, just before they put a gold medal around his neck, before The Star-Spangled Banner played in his honor, and along with some cheers a chorus of boos rang out.

The cheers — great. The boos — this fell somewhere between disappointing and reprehensible. Olympic-style sport is not the English Premier League, the NFL or NBA. It is supposed to be about promoting three key values: friendship, excellence and respect.

Saturday’s men’s 100-meter final immediately became arguably the biggest gold-medal victory in the history of the event. Gatlin defeated the sport’s biggest legend, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt. It’s how the race will forever be remembered: who beat Bolt, and in Bolt’s last individual 100? Gatlin. And who, before Saturday, was the last guy ever to beat Bolt? Gatlin, in Rome in 2013.

Justin Gatlin: an all-time tale of redemption and respect

Justin Gatlin: an all-time tale of redemption and respect

LONDON — Act II of the morality play shall now commence, and if there is justice in this world, let it rain Justin Gatlin’s way. He is deserving, more than deserving, of your appreciation and, more, your respect.

A few days ago, before the start of these 2017 IAAF world championships, Usain Bolt had said he was both “unbeatable” and “unstoppable,” adding, “Without a doubt. If I show up at a championship, you know that I’m ready to go.”

Without a doubt, the track and field establishment wanted Bolt — king of the scene, a “genius,” according to IAAF president Sebastian Coe — to win Saturday night’s 100 meters, Bolt’s last hurrah, the final competitive 100 the greatest sprinter humankind has ever seen had said he intended to run.

On the start line now: 11 years, big upside

On the start line now: 11 years, big upside

LONDON — Somewhere, some 8- or 9- or 10-year-old kid is in her or his backyard, throwing or running or jumping and dreaming big dreams about maybe someday being, say, Allyson Felix, lithe and elegant, or Tianna Bartoletta, fast and focused, or maybe Christian Taylor or Ryan Crouser, guys who produce when the spotlight is brightest.

Never, perhaps, has track and field found itself at such an intriguing intersection, indeed one suddenly filled with potential.

There are the kids, and their dreams. There is the sport, with its many documented woes. There is also, genuinely, because of the award of the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics, opportunity, and particularly in the United States.

Time for this 9-second reminder: Justin Gatlin is real, and genuine

Time for this 9-second reminder: Justin Gatlin is real, and genuine

SACRAMENTO, California — Five years ago, on the last night of July, Bruce Springsteen played an epic show in Helsinki, more than four hours, his longest show ever.

He and the E Street Band played 33 songs, one of which, My City of Ruins, ran to 18 minutes and 26 seconds. That song, as Bruce describes it that night, was originally written about his New Jersey hometown “trying to get back on its feet” but had since become about so much more: “what you lose, what you hold onto, the spirits that remain forever and the things you have to let go.”