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Get to know athletics’ newest star: Christian Coleman

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At the age of 22, the USA’s Christian Coleman is the reigning world indoor 60m champion, the indoor 60m world record-holder and the proud owner of two 2017 World Championship silver medals. Here, he chats about life growing up as the son of two educationalists; his grandmother’s incomparable cooking; and how he’s become one of athletics’ brightest young stars. 

You recently broke the 60m world record, which had stood for 20 years. Can your new mark last as long?

Anybody I have spoken to who has held a record says “Records are meant to be broken.” They get excited when somebody has an opportunity to break one of their records and take the sport even further.

The records I have set, they are meant to be broken. I want people to go and shoot for them, and strive to take the sport to another level.

You already seem to be able to perform at your best when the pressure is really on: why is that?

For me, it comes naturally. For me, I just love running in the big moments. That’s always been the way. That is what you work so hard for. You don’t work hard to run fast in practice or to run fast at small meets.

I don’t really feel the pressure in a negative way. The more people start talking about big races and hyping things up, I get more excited.

A lot of people, when they are expected to do great things they fold, but you have got to find a way to navigate it.

You have won one gold and two silver world championship medals on your two trips to England so far. Is it your favourite place outside the USA?

I guess so. Every time I have come I have left with a medal. I am excited to get back there this summer. The atmosphere there is always crazy; the fans really love track and field. So far, it’s been my favourite.

What about the not-so-famous English food? Anything take your fancy while you were there?

I have heard that the fish and chips are good but I am not a big fan of seafood, that’s the thing.

Like everybody, I like pizza. You can’t go wrong with that or a good cheeseburger. But my favourite is just whatever my grandmother cooks: I’ll take that over anything. Southern cuisine. She can pretty much get you right with anything she puts her touch to. There is nothing else like it really.

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You were a very promising American footballer while still at school. Do you miss playing?

I do. It was one of my first loves. I grew up playing football and thought that would be my route to play at college and maybe the next level. In America, football is everything. I wanted to be in the NFL.

But I have the same amount of love for track and field, and I love that I get to focus on just track and field now. When I was growing up I was doing both.

Which NFL team do you support?

Atlanta Falcons. When I made the Olympic team (for the Rio 2016 Games), they asked a couple of us from Atlanta to go and meet the team and go to a game. I got a couple of pictures with Julio (Jones) and Devonta Freeman and Matt Ryan.

Did they try and tempt you to try out for them?

Arthur Blank, the owner, he was kind of joking but he was like, “Whenever you want to come and play for me, let me know.” That would be a cool experience, to play for the Falcons. You never know.

What is playing on your headphones at the moment when you are training?

I listen to a lot of hip-hop and rap. A lot of whatever is trending, a lot of underground artists, and some stuff everybody will know, like Drake.

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Both of your parents worked in education, so no chance to skip any homework then?

For sure they made me do my homework, made me do extra reading. Even during the summer when a lot of my friends were out playing, I had to do summer reading or work before I could go out.

It paid off and gave me a really high appreciation for education.

Did you ever attend the school at which your mum worked?

For the most part I went to a different school, but for two years, fourth and fifth grade, I went to the same school she worked at. It was an interesting experience being at school with my mum. You can’t really get away with anything with your mum being there.

She was in the office, an administrator, and everyone knew her and she knew everybody. I couldn’t get away with anything. Anything that happened, she would find out. It was good though, because all the teachers liked me because of my mum.

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What about your Olympic rings tattoo? Does your mum approve? 

I told her before that I was thinking of getting it, and she was like, “Ah, you don’t necessarily really need tattoos.” But I got it anyway.

I told her it was kind of like a tradition: when you make it to the Olympics, that is a big thing.

Maybe I will get something inside one of the rings next, Rio 2016 in one of them, and if I make it to Tokyo, maybe Tokyo 2020 in one of the others.

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