Christian Coleman’s Plan To Return To The Top of The Sprints

The CITIUS MAG Podcast

January 5, 2024

"To me, it’s not about the times. If there’s something to be won, I want to win it. And I don't care what time it takes to win it. I'm trying to go get it and that’s what track and field is about. "

60m world record holder Christian Coleman will return to the Armory in New York City on Feb. 11th to go for his third consecutive victory in the men’s 60m at the Millrose Games.

Coleman is coming off a 2023 season in which he matched the world’s fastest 100m time of the year with a 9.83s victory at the Xiamen Diamond League in China last August. He was the runner-up in the men’s 100m at the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships and went on to place fifth at the World Championship final in Budapest. He closed out the season by winning the men’s 100m Diamond League crown at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon.

You don’t hear Christian Coleman do too many longer interviews so it was a pleasure to chat with him as we reflect on 2023 and look toward 2024 – where you could make the case that he’s a gold medal favorite in the men’s 100m. He’s honest about the process of coming back from a whereabouts suspension that kept him out for 18 months and forced him to miss the Tokyo Olympics.

We get a bit technical on what makes for a great 60m sprinter and how that converts to outdoors and the 100m. I touched on why he’s not as vocal about records and fast times as some of his competitors and much more.

I think you’ll hear a side to one of the world’s fastest men that you haven’t heard before.

Christian ColemanChristian Coleman

Johnny Zhang / @jzsnapz

CITIUS MAG caught up with Coleman ahead of his Millrose Games announcement to reflect on 2023 and look ahead toward the Summer Olympics. The following interview excerpt has been edited lightly for clarity.

CITIUS MAG: Christian Coleman, welcome to the Olympic year. How does that sound?

Christian Coleman: It's an incredible feeling. It’s humbling and I’m grateful and appreciative. I have a newfound perspective on life and the sport. I don't take these opportunities for granted. It's a blessing, especially to know that I have a real shot to do something special. I feel like it's the right time for me. My body's coming around. Mentally, I feel like I'm in the best place I've been in.

CITIUS MAG: You're only 27. But with the way that college kids are running and all these rising stars that we've had, do you feel like you're a veteran of the 100m?

Christian Coleman: Absolutely. I feel like I'm a veteran because this is a young man's game. But I feel like I'm still a rookie, too. I have so much more to learn and so much more to do. I feel right in my prime right now. Even when I was a younger guy coming into the sport, I felt confident so I didn't necessarily look at myself as a rookie or a young guy. Back then, I was just going out there competing and I feel like I'm that same guy. I just go out there and compete no matter who's on the line. I feel like I'm better because I've been in a few high-profile races and been around the system over the years. But I feel like I'm still learning and evolving and there’s still so much more to go.

CITIUS MAG: You not only raced Usain Bolt, but you beat him at a World Championships. You have that for the rest of your career. Do you ever take a second to remember that’s how your pro career started?

Christian Coleman: As long as you have an unwavering belief in yourself and you’re consistently putting in the work, you go out there and put your best foot forward and the results will come. That was my first major World Championship where I was in an individual event. I'll never forget it. I got thrown into the deep end and it’s either sink or swim. You have to figure it out. You don't have the experience. You realize you’re at the big stage. But it's the same 100 meters. I deserved to be there just as much as anybody else. Nobody was really expecting me to win or go out there and perform how I did. It was cool for that to be my first time and Usain Bolt’s last race. The pressure was off me. The expectation for me was to soak it all in and then lock in and go compete. I'll never forget that time in my career and will never forget that race either. It definitely gave me a lot of confidence.

CITIUS MAG: What changes in your day-to-day life when the calendar flips from December 2023 to January 2024? Is there more intensity at practice and more attention to detail? This is the year that you work towards every four years.

Christian Coleman: If you have to flip a switch, it's too late. I've been locked in. We've been training and going at it and we’re focused on the process. The biggest thing for me is staying healthy and staying patient. You can't do anything out of the ordinary. You can't do something that you haven't practiced or do something extra. It's just another year. This is what we do every single year. It’s the top of the year – there’s newfound energy, newfound opportunity. But it’s the same level of consistency, the same level of intensity. We just continue to do what we do.

CITIUS MAG: We're chatting because we have a special announcement that you'll be running at the 2024 Millrose Games. Headlining the men's 60m is becoming an annual tradition for you. What do you love about the Millrose Games and kicking off the indoor season and setting the tone for the year with that meet?

Christian Coleman: It's my third time coming in a row, so it's kind of an annual season opener for me in the 60m. I feel like this is the biggest regular season indoor meet in the U.S. It’s very intense and the fans really appreciate our talent coming up there in New York. It's a very intimate type of venue at the Armory, so I love that aspect of it. The fans are very knowledgeable about the sport. It's a little cold, but we get inside and it warms up and we try to put on a show. I feel even better than I did last year, so I'm excited to get out there and come out with a win and start the season really good.

CITIUS MAG: Last year it was one of the best races of the whole meet. It was a little chaotic at the start – Noah Lyles got DQ’d and ran under protest. You kept your calm throughout all that and won. What does a meet like that do for you the rest of the year?

Christian Coleman: It's the same approach every meet. Every opportunity that you get is an opportunity to get better. It’s an opportunity to show up and sharpen your sword. You might lose one portion but there are still more races to win and more races to run. You just try to not get too high or too low. Every time you step out there you want to go to that level of competitiveness and intensity, especially when you go up against world-class guys. That’s your opportunity to get out there and see where you fare with the best in the world…Running indoors for me is one of those times where if you run really fast in the winter while you’re still going through a heavy training load, it gives you a lot of confidence knowing that when you get outside and we start tapering off with weights, everything should continue to elevate. Indoors is really just a springboard to get ready for outdoors.

CITIUS MAG: Why was last year so slow in the 100m? There's Fred Kerley and Tray Bromell and Marvin Bracy going back at each other with these public bets about who's going to be the first one to run 9.7. You stayed quiet through all of it, which I like because you let the work speak for itself. But there was a level of disappointment for people since we didn't see the flashy time just yet. What's your theory as to why everyone was leveled out at 9.8s and 9.9s last year?

Christian Coleman: One thing I will say, slow is a strong word. It was a world-lead for a reason. Nobody else in the world ran faster so it doesn’t seem slow to me… I feel like it was just the year. You can go back in history with any race. You can look at the 400m hurdles or the 200m or 800m and be like, ‘this was a down year where not as many people ran as fast as we’ve seen before.’ But in those types of years, you find out who's consistent and who the true champions are. To me, it’s not about the times. If there’s something to be won, I want to win it. And I don't care what time it takes to win it. I'm trying to go get it and that’s what track and field is about. To me, it’s not really about the flash in the pan, flashy times and things of that nature…

The fans need to take another step too and just appreciate what they’re watching because what it takes to even get to that line… a lot of people just can’t even imagine. A lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into it… I feel like the fans appreciate what they’re watching because these are the best athletes in the world but there’s just no comparison on what it takes to make it to that line.

CITIUS MAG: There's been talk among Noah Lyles, Tray Bromell, and Fred Kerley about wanting to break Usain Bolt’s records. You're one of the fastest of the bunch but have never said a word about the times they’re talking about. You're not as vocal about putting it out there, like ‘I'm going to run this fast.’ It's never been in your nature.

Christian Coleman: I don’t like to talk too much. I'm not really into the antics. (Talking about it) isn’t going to change what's going to happen when we get there. If it’s not conducive to me propelling myself forward and staying focused and doing what I know I’m capable of doing, what's the point? So I leave that to the other guys. But I think everyone has a healthy level of respect for everyone because of what it takes to get to the line, especially at a high level.

CITIUS MAG: 2022, the first year back from the suspension, was all about getting back into a good racing pattern. Did you feel like the 100m changed in your time away from not being able to race? Then in 2023, you qualified for Worlds and made the final again. It's not like you lost that much from time away.

Christian Coleman: I think it was just me having to get back to being me. If you take two or three years off your job and then just try to hop back in it, you might be a little rusty. It's hard to get better at something without doing it, even if you’re practicing. Like I said, every race is an opportunity to sharpen your tools, to continue to progress and move forward. But if you don't have those opportunities and you're just practicing, it's hard to continue to get better. So I felt that way. In 2022, I knew physically I wasn't going to be exactly like where I needed to be. But at the end of the day, it is what it is…

Physically I knew I just wasn't going to be exactly where I needed to be but I still had to go out there and compete. Last year, the 2023 season, I felt like I was right on par with the best in the world. I felt like I was capable of winning any race on any given day versus anybody. It was more like if I wanted to win, I had to take a mental step for myself. I had to let certain things go. I had to let God work out situations around me and just focus on what I needed to focus on so that I could find my frequency and be the best Christian Coleman that I could be. The fact is I know my truth, I know who I am, I know what I'm capable of. I have to do what I need to do to find that frequency. Even if I knew that coming into the season, that I would have to take another step mentally, it's still hard to do that in the midst of what you're going through…

Admittedly, I had to take another step in the midst of that and it was tough. That's why in 2023 I had to take another leap – mentally, spiritually, emotionally. Finally, towards the end of the season, I started to feel my best… There were a lot of factors coming into 2023. I was ready but mentally I knew I had to take another step. And now I feel like this year it’s just putting it all together. This year there isn’t anything holding me back. I don't see anything else except me being me.

CITIUS MAG: You started putting things together really well two weeks after the World Championships and then at the Pre Classic. What happened in Budapest in the 100m final? Have you gone back to revisit exactly what went wrong in that race?

Christian Coleman: Of course. I watch all my races – that's how you continue to get better. In terms of me trying to be the best I can be, I take losses just like how I take wins. The same exact way. Nothing really changes… I was ready to win that race. I felt as if my body was ready to do something that mentally I wasn't ready to do just yet… Even though I had a misstep, I was still pulling away. I was still accelerating. I was still moving down the track like I was the best in the world. Why was I panicking? There was no need for it. If I would’ve just been patient, it could have been a different outcome. But I felt like I needed that race to be able to teach me that lesson… The lesson I learned over the years is that you have to take the good with the bad. Things happen exactly how they're supposed to. And if you truly believe that, you always have to find a silver lining…

The only way to continue to get better in those moments is to be in those moments and feel what you need to feel. So after that race I went back to the drawing board and cleaned some things up. I took another step mentally, emotionally, even physically, and came to Prefontaine and did what I needed to do. Going into the 2024 season, it’s going to be a different set of challenges that I have to face and overcome. But it's going to look different because I've learned lessons that I needed to learn in previous phases. I feel like this is my time now. There are no excuses, there’s no stopping me. Everything happened how it was supposed to. I didn't get discouraged. I kept moving forward. And now I'm ready to step into my time.

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Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.

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