LONDON — IAAF president Sebastian Coe said Sunday that he believes American Christian Coleman will most likely be the successor to Usain Bolt as track and field’s sprint icon, and insisted the jeering of 100-meter champion Justin Gatlin would not define the 2017 World Championships.
“The big story of the week, which was the 100-meter final, one third of that was the emergence of Coleman — again, quite possibly the future face of sprinting,” Coe said during a news conference on the final night of the event. “At the same time, Usain was leaving the stage — that was a big, big moment. Let’s not overlook the fact that we may just have unearthed the future of sprinting for the next four or five years.”
Bolt pulled up injured in Saturday’s 4×100 relay, the final race of his career, a moment the IAAF president described as “horrible” and “devastating” for the sprinter. The Jamaican finished third in his final individual race, the 100, on Day 2. He was surpassed by winner Gatlin, who was loudly booed by the crowd, and second-place finisher Coleman.
Coe has been vocal about his disapproval of Gatlin’s success because of the sprinter’s history of doping infringements, and underlined his position.
“I don’t think that was a moment that was going to define these championships, or the next five or 10 years of the sport,” Coe said. “I don’t like to see athletes being booed, but the public feel strongly about that. Justin was eligible to be here and this was a 17-year history. The denouement we witnessed in the stadium the other night.
“I would rather not see athletes who have tested positive in the past walking away and winning titles in some of the biggest moments in our sport.”
Coe said track and field still had some way to go to repair the “reputational damage” done by doping and corruption scandals, but claimed there was a growing confidence within the sport. These championships, he said, could be a springboard for a brighter future, but athletes such as Coleman would have to step up off the track as well as on it.
“I think this gives us an opportunity to cast a light on the young talent that’s out there,” Coe said. “We are all asking what the sport looks like now that Mo [Farah] has sort of taken to the roads and Usain has hung up the spikes. Actually, there is a terrific wealth of talent coming through in pretty much every federation.
“What we are going to miss about Bolt is not the three back-to-back Olympic Games or the clutch or world records, or medals,” he said. “It’s going to be because he has an opinion, he fills a room and he’s of interest. The athletes have to realize they are part of this process.”