The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

Is Coleman the Heir Apparent?

Mar 14th, 2018
7:50 am PDT

Me for Blog picChristian Coleman has had a blazing indoor season. He opened with a WR 60 meters of 6.37 that had no chance of rectification because electronic blocks weren’t used. He then proceeded to cruise 6.4s, on his way to the US Championships. There he shut down on 6.47 and 6.43 heat and semi before crushing the WR with a 6.34! He finished up with a 6.37 to win the World Indoor Championships! No one came close all season. Coleman’s biggest opponent all season was the clock.

Of course the internet has gone nuts, immediately drawing comparison to newly retired 100 WR holder Usain Bolt with the question, "Can Coleman break 9.58?" – shows just how important the 100 meters is to the world of track and field!

So, that said, can Coleman break 9.58, and is he the heir apparent? Well, to address the first question, I think fans need to realize two advantages that Bolt had in his WR – one of which no one else will ever have again. Bolt’s advantages were both natural and artificial.

Bolt’s natural advantage was his height. At 6’5", Bolt had a leg span which allowed him to run the 100 with approximately 5 fewer strides than most of his competition. That’s huge, given that he had a much better start than the average man his size – and better than most of his competition! The other advantage, that has been taken away from the sport, is that the zero tolerance false start rule for not exist. Individuals could "hedge their bet slightly" without the penalty of being thrown out of the race. Something that Bolt did frequently, actually drawing a false start in the rounds in ’09, on his way to that 9.58 final – which he lead from start to finish. And being eliminated in ’11 from the 100 final after the institution of the rule. It makes a difference.

Those things said, where does that leave Coleman? Well, for starters unable to hedge at all. He’s stuck in the blocks, as everyone has been since 2010 – and if you notice, most of the superior times were pre-10. The notable exception being the London Games. This is perhaps the biggest impediment for anyone in pursuit of the record.

The second is Coleman’s height – or lack thereof. At 5’9" Coleman is 8" shorter than Bolt. Actually he’s 4" shorter than reigning World Champion Justin Gatlin. So Coleman’s giving up a lot of leg/stride length. He’s done growing, so the only way he can improve his "stride" is to increase his foot strike (power) without sacrificing turnover. Possible, but not sure enough to get from his current PR of 9.82 to 9.58.

I’m impressed with Coleman’s indoor season. A nice follow up to last year’s NCAA performances; collegiate 100 record; and World Championships silver medal, but the odds of running 9.58 are low. The first target for both fans and Coleman should be the American Record of 9.69. Only the WR and Bolt’s 9.63 2012 Games win are faster. When Tyson Gay ran that mark he was at the height of his career and had crazy top end speed – ditto for Yohan Blake who has duplicated that mark. IF Coleman can do that, then talk of 9.58 could be more realistic.

First stop will be 9.7x which should happen this year. How easily he does that, and how often, will also be an indicator of Coleman’s ability to ultimately run a WR. The one certainty is that Coleman will be fun to watch this year.

Usain Bolt v Carl Lewis

Nov 6th, 2017
11:51 am PDT

A recent comparison of Carl Lewis v Usain Bolt by Michael Johnson - and the ensuing online discussion - has prompted this post. In part because I disagree with Michael, and in part by the direction of the online discussions themselves. I'll start by saying that for me, the conversation is about a comparison of the two athletes, NOT a discussion of which is the GOAT Read More...

The Sprints Will Now Reset

Oct 26th, 2017
6:32 pm PDT

The period around Olympics is usually when we see resets occur, and Rio will go down as such a period. Ashton Eaton used Rio as his final hurrah. Usain Bolt and Mo Farah used the Worlds following Rio as their Major farewell. The retirement of Bolt is especially important, as there are a bevy of elite sprinters that have all had their careers intersect with his Read More...

Surprise – 2017 World Championships

Aug 22nd, 2017
1:28 pm PDT

If you thought you knew what was going to happen in London - you were wrong. The one thing that everyone had right, is that this is the last we will see of Usain Bolt and Mo Farah on the World Championships  track. How those stories would end proved to be a community event, as opposed to solo writing, as some other athletes had their say Read More...

Who Wins the London 100?

Aug 2nd, 2017
7:46 pm PDT

Personally I think the men's 400 presents the matchup of the meet. For the millions watching this year's World Championships however, most will be tuned in on Saturday to see if Usain Bolt can win one final 100 title before exiting, stage left. Entering the stadium, this is a very interesting race. For starters, Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin - who between them have won every Olympic title in the new millennium except '00 - have both been sub par this season Read More...

The World Championships Hottest Matchup

Jul 26th, 2017
6:34 pm PDT

What makes the World Championships THE hottest competition of the year is the matchups. The best of the best, gathered in one place to determine the best in the world in each event. In a meet of matchups, one should stand head and shoulders above the rest - the men's 400 meters. It was the hottest matchup in Rio and fittingly produced the hottest result of the Games - three men under 44 Read More...

Can the US Return After a Decade?

Jul 15th, 2017
2:39 pm PDT

Ten years. A decade. A lot can happen in 10 years. Ten years ago, the iPhone made its debut - now no one can remember how we lived WITHOUT smartphones. Blackberry and Nokia ruled the cell phone world, and if you were really cool you owned a Razr! Young people today can't remember either of those names with a market dominated by iPhones and Galaxy's Read More...

What Can van Niekerk Do?

Jul 9th, 2017
1:46 pm PDT

I recently saw the question posed on the internet, "Can van Niekerk break the world record in the 200 meters?" To wit the response from most was a loud, "NO". That tends to be the response when talk of a long standing record arises. Longevity tends to breed the notion that a mark is invincible Read More...

The European Plan to Reset Records

Jul 3rd, 2017
1:10 pm PDT

There has been a suggestion from European Athletics to reset the track and field record book to only allow records that conform to the sport's current standard of taking and storing blood and urine so that either or both can be tested post record for new drugs and methods of doping discovered after the record has been ratified Read More...

USATF’s Self Fulfilling Prophecy

Jun 28th, 2017
5:33 pm PDT

Sacramento was just the host of the US Championships. One of the few times in the past decade that Eugene Oregon wasn't the host of US Nationals. Though it just finished being the host of the NCAA Championships. And frankly MOST Championships and meets of consequence (ie Prefontaine Classic) since the turn of the century have been run in Eugene Read More...