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Olympian Christian Coleman takes in buzz after viral 40-yard dash

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — There’s video of a Tennessee athlete running the 40-yard dash faster than anyone ever has at the NFL combine.

Except he didn’t get drafted. He’s not even a football player anymore. He did it for fun and watched the video gain traction on social media.

This just might have signaled Christian Coleman‘s arrival as one of the top young American sprinters. At a time when the U.S. is seeking talented young sprinters as Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin enter their mid-30s, Coleman is an intriguing contender.

“I definitely look at the opportunity and hope I can take advantage of it,” Coleman said. “You’ve got older guys, they came in and really laid the groundwork for USA Track and Field. Those are some of the guys that I looked up to growing up running track.

“To be able to be looked at as one of the guys that can potentially come in and take their place as they move out of the sport, that’s a pretty cool opportunity.”

Coleman, who ran on the U.S. Olympic 4×100 team in a qualifying heat in Rio, won the NCAA indoor championships 60m (6.45) and 200m (20.11) titles in March. He is undefeated in individual events during the NCAA outdoor season heading into this week’s Southeastern Conference Championships at Columbia, S.C.

After his junior season concludes, Coleman will compete in the U.S. Championships next month in Sacramento, Calif. Coleman says he won’t decide until after the NCAA season whether to return to Tennessee for his senior year or turn pro.

Perhaps his best-known performance thus far didn’t even count.

Less than a week after the NCAA indoor championships, Tennessee filmed Coleman running the 40 in 4.12 seconds at the school’s indoor athletic facility. For comparison’s sake, the fastest 40 ever posted at the combine came this year from Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross, a first-round draft pick out of Washington, who ran it in 4.22 seconds.

Tennessee’s track program put the video of Coleman’s 4.12 40 on social media on May 1, two days after the conclusion of the NFL draft. The attention surrounding it has introduced Coleman to a much wider audience.

The video has been viewed more than 3.3 million times on Facebook over the last week. Coleman says he got “a couple thousand” more Twitter followers as the video went viral.

“When they were making the video, we figured it would get a lot of views because it was a pretty fast 40,” Coleman said. “I don’t know how I really feel about it. I got a lot of publicity for it. It was just a cool little deal.”

As impressive as Coleman looked in that video, he might be capable of much more.

Tennessee coach Beth Alford-Sullivan noted that the video was shot after Coleman had taken some time to rest his tired legs after the NCAA indoor championships.

“I think he can run even faster, but he’d taken (about) a week off at that point,” Alford-Sullivan said.

Coleman agrees.

“I wasn’t really in my best sprint form,” Coleman said. “We kind of just went out there and did it. I feel I could probably run faster, but you know, it’s pretty good.”

Other athletes noticed. U.S. Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones tweeted: “This is great. Can football players please stop asking to race us trackies now? Matter settled.” Tennessee football coach Butch Jones retweeted the video and asked Coleman, “What’s your cleat size?”

Coleman is a former high school cornerback and receiver from Atlanta. He has two older brothers who played football at Harvard and Colgate, though Coleman realized he had a brighter future in track.

“I had a couple of (football) offers from really small schools – (Division) II, a couple of I-AA schools – but I had other opportunities, of course, to run at SEC schools for track. … It just seemed like the best situation for me.”

Coleman hasn’t looked back since.

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Tommy Ford ends U.S. men’s World Cup drought at Beaver Creek

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Tommy Ford earned his first World Cup win at age 30 and ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades.

Ford won the giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, the last North American race on tour this season. He prevailed by eight tenths of a second combining times over two runs.

“It doesn’t beat doing it here. I’ve been working hard,” Ford, in his 86th World Cup start dating to 2009, said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “No secret, just kept it simple and really trusted what I was doing.”

Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen were second and third. American Ted Ligety, fourth after the opening run, finished 11th.

Full results are here.

Ford became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford, a 2010 and 2018 Olympian who missed the 2014 Olympics due to a broken femur, had been working toward this moment.

He finished a World Cup career-high fourth at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27. Last season, the Oregon native and former Dartmouth student had a pair of fifths.

The men’s World Cup moves to Val d’Isere, France, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom.

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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