Christian Coleman lays claim to post-Usain Bolt era

BIRMINGHAM, England -- On a night of domination for the U.S. at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, Christian Coleman struck the first blow in the post-Usain Bolt era with gold in the men's 60 metres final. It was inevitable, but he coped with the pressure and duly delivered with graceful ease.

Sprinters following in Bolt's footsteps will inevitably be compared to the great Jamaican. But in his own words, Coleman wants to create a name for himself, out on his own, rather than being constantly compared to those before him.

And on a turbulent, exhilarating night in Birmingham, he took his first strides out into the unknown as the world's fastest man.

"I don't want to be the next Usain Bolt," Coleman said. "I want to be Christian Coleman, and a few years from now, maybe people will say 'Who will be the next Christian Coleman?'"

Coleman came to Birmingham with box-office billing. With the sport desperate for stars to fill the Bolt-less vacuum, he delivered. Though he failed to overhaul his own indoor world record time of 6.34 seconds, he ran a 6.37 -- a championship record -- to establish himself as the dominant figure in men's sprinting with his first world title. It was only "pretty good" according to the man himself, a sign he feels there is more to come.

China's Su Bingtian was earmarked as Coleman's greatest threat to the gold -- with Canada's Andre de Grasse absent -- and he came second, 0.05 seconds off the American with USA teammate Ronnie Baker taking bronze.

It continues the rapid rise of Coleman who is still in his first professional season. Just a year ago he seemed a little uneasy in the spotlight that was shining ever brighter, race on race, as his reputation grew. Last August he was sat among Bolt and Justin Gatlin at the IAAF World Championships having taken silver in the 100 ahead of the legendary Jamaican. He spoke of the honour at featuring on the same podium alongside them, his awe of Bolt and appreciation of his mentor Gatlin.

In that postrace news conference in London, he let Bolt and Gatlin do the talking, contributing few words, letting them dissect the incredible, narrative-flipping race, almost as if he was the apprentice among the masters. He had journeyed to those championships having run the fastest time of 2017 and with people talking about him; almost as if folk were dying for a sequel to a Bolt-led tale that enthralled and inspired.

But here he was THE story. Everyone was talking about him, to the extent that when American great Michael Johnson was asked on BBC television coverage who his one to watch was, he chose Su as he had been told he was not allowed to pick Coleman. He was too obvious a choice.

Coleman is already swiping aside those before him in the record books. Maurice Greene spoke to Coleman ahead of these championships, wishing him well, knowing his records were an endangered species. Having broken Greene's world record twice this year, Coleman took his championship record here as well.

It never really looked in doubt. Despite stumbling out of the blocks in the heats, he still won in 6.71. And it seemed fitting he took Gatlin's stadium record with his semifinal time of 6.45, effectively jogging the last few metres -- an act so long a signifier of Bolt's dominance -- the man out in front conserving energy, with others bursting vessels to join him in the final.

And then came the final. He led from the front, others trailing in his wake. And then afterward he had to speak for himself, something he did with an unassuming ease of an athlete not getting carried away with his own success.

It was a remarkable night for the USA. Kendra Harrison is the dominant force in women's hurdles, with the 100m hurdles outdoor world record to her name, and she added the indoor 60 championship on Saturday. Like Coleman, it was never in doubt.

As Harrison won her title, the hugely impressive and personable Sandi Morris was going for a world record in the pole vault having already won gold. Earlier, Will Claye had secured gold in the men's triple jump. In the women's 400, Courtney Okolo won gold, with her teammate Shakima Wimbley taking silver.

We call it Super Saturday in this part of the world, but this was more like Standard Saturday -- such is the expectation of American dominance in track and field. Theirs is a culture and story of success that will be the envy of everyone else here in Birmingham and across the world.

And so to Coleman, and what's next. He will head to the 2019 world championships as the man to beat, and the same will apply come the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. But in future years, when people look at his expected myriad of medals, it started here in Birmingham with his first world title.

"You never get used to that feeling of winning, so I'm excited," he said. He needs to get used to it. This was the first punch landed in the post-Bolt era, one that could be labelled Coleman's chapter.