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Christian Coleman ponders record more than rivalry as Diamond League moves to Oslo

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Christian Coleman‘s sights are on gold medals and, perhaps as early this season, an American record. They’re certainly not on the men chasing him, usually the rest of the field, in the last half of 100m races.

Coleman, the world’s fastest man in this Olympic cycle, headlines a Diamond League meet in Oslo on Thursday (1 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold, and 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN). He is the clear favorite in the 100m against a field lacking his biggest recent foes.

One of those absentees is Noah Lyles. The world’s fastest 200m sprinter in this Olympic cycle dipped down to the 100m on May 18 in Shanghai and rallied to beat Coleman by .006. The photo finish and following social media posts sparked talk of a new rivalry in the post-Usain Bolt era.

“I don’t necessarily look at us as rivals,” Coleman said Monday. “I think I’ve done a lot of things in the sport. I’m just focusing on me and trying to be the best me that I can be. If the media wants to create whatever storylines, whatever, so be it. I just treat everybody the same way, all of my competition. I don’t single out one person and say this is my competition that I’m focusing on.”

What Coleman is targeting is a cleaner sprint in Oslo than his season opener in Shanghai. The goal is to better 9.86, which would make him the fastest man in the world this year.

“My start was decent [in Shanghai], but I feel like I can work on my acceleration being a lot smoother, my transition, standing up tall, holding my form, composure so I can finish out the race,” Coleman said of his first meet since Aug. 31. “When you come back, and it’s your first race in a while, it’s hard to reciprocate real-life competition in practice. You never know how your body’s going to react when you actually get in competition. It’s just old, bad habits I’ve been trying to fix in practice creeped up on me in the competition.”

Coleman’s start is unrivaled. He’s best known outside the track world for covering a 40-yard dash in 4.12 seconds, a tenth faster than the NFL Combine record. He’s also the fastest 60m sprinter in history.

In the biggest race of his life, Coleman had a step on Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin in the first 10 meters at the 2017 World Championships. He led until the last few strides, before Gatlin edged him by two hundredths. Then on May 18, Coleman again surged to the early lead and held it until Lyles, known more for his finish than his start, nudged ahead at the line.

“Track and field is an art,” Coleman said. “It’s a difficult sport to be able to say, just stay relaxed at the end of the race and just hold your form well. Whatever people like to say online about critiquing world-class athletes’ races, it is harder than it looks.

“It’s much easier to fix the back end of my race than to have a better start. Getting a better start and having that acceleration is more like strength and technique, and one of those things that you can’t just teach overnight and you can’t just think about mentally and get better at. I feel like I’m in a good spot.”

Coleman is certainly better positioned than a year ago, when he struggled in the spring with a hamstring injury.

Coleman, after running faster than the previous indoor 60m world record three times that winter, didn’t hit his summer stride until late August. He ran a personal-best 9.79 into a headwind in the Diamond League Final, arguably the most impressive sprint by anybody outside the Bolt era.

“Last year, I think just indoors I took my body to a place where nobody had ever been before,” Coleman said. “I think, maybe, if I had taken a little bit of time off before I started my outdoor season … I wasn’t doing the things properly off the track to be able to stay healthy.”

Still, the 9.79 put Coleman within a tenth of the American record set by Tyson Gay in 2009.

“It’s not necessarily a goal,” Coleman said, “but it’s something that’s been in the back of my head.”

Coleman may not be ready to approach that in Oslo, given he plans to peak for worlds in almost four months.

He hopes to qualify for the world team in both the 100m and the 200m at next month’s USATF Outdoor Championships. Next week, Coleman races a 200m for the first time since June 2017.

“I know what it feels like to be on that stage, and I know what it takes to get there,” he said, looking ahead to worlds in Doha. “I know how to set my season up to be at my best when it really matters. That’s all I’m focusing on. Everything else is irrelevant. The name of our sport and what we get paid to do is represent our countries and go out there and try and get gold medals.”

MORE: Russia’s top track and field athlete slams ‘never-ending disgrace’

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Chinese swimmer Sun Yang gets rare open hearing in doping case

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The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said Monday it will hear the World Anti-Doping Agency’s case against three-time Olympic gold medalist Sun Yang on Nov. 15 in front of reporters — possibly even live-streamed — at the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace in Montreux, Switzerland.

The hearing won’t be completely open. Registration will be required, and photographers and videographers “will be invited to leave the hearing room after the opening,” CAS said in a statement. But those outside the room may still get a glimpse of the proceedings.

“With the agreement of all parties, it is intended to live stream all or parts of the hearing on the CAS website,” CAS said.

CAS noted that it has only held one prior hearing that wasn’t in a private setting — the 1999 case involving Irish swimmer Michelle Smith de Bruin, who won three gold medals in the 1996 Olympics but was banned for four years for tampering with a urine sample, a case that still prompts soul-searching in the Irish media. De Bruin lost the appeal.

Sun is accused of smashing a vial of blood at a drug test last fall. FINA allowed him to continue to compete, but the WADA has appealed, seeking a substantial suspension.

The Chinese swimmer won two gold medals at the world championships this summer and snubbed by some rivals at each medal ceremony, leading to a confrontation with British swimmer Duncan Scott.

RECAP AND VIDEO: Sun taunts Scott after medal ceremony

Sun has won 11 world individual titles in several freestyle distances but also has a long history of controversies ranging from a prior positive drug test and confrontations with other swimmers.

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U.S. women’s volleyball team ends year with surprise loss to Dominican Republic

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The Dominican Republic surprised the U.S. women’s volleyball team in the final of the NORCECA (North, Central America and Caribbean) women’s continental championship Sunday in San Juan, Puerto Rico, winning the first two sets and regrouping after a U.S. rally to win the fifth set.

The final score of the back-and-forth match: 25-19, 25-23, 15-25, 20-25, 15-9. The U.S. women had defeated the Dominican Republic in three previous finals: 2011, 2013 and 2015. The Dominican Republic won a semifinal matchup on its way to the 2009 title.

In group play, the U.S. team had beaten the Dominican Republic in straight sets. The U.S. also breezed past Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico in group play and swept past Canada in the semifinals.

The loss doesn’t affect Olympic qualification. The U.S. women had already qualified for the 2020 Olympics by winning a qualification tournament in August in Bossier City, La.

MORE: U.S. women rally to qualify

Semifinalists Canada and Puerto Rico qualified for a last-chance Olympic qualifier that the Dominican Republic will host in January. Mexico defeated Cuba in the NORCECA fifth-place game to be the last of the four teams vying for one spot.

The Dominican Republic has had some success in women’s volleyball, finishing fifth in the 2014 world championships and reaching the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals before falling to the U.S. The team also won this year’s Pan Am Games, to which the U.S. did not send its top players. Currently, the team is ranked 10th in the world.

Earlier this year, the U.S. women had defeated the Dominican Republic in two tournament finals — the Pan American Cup and the NORCECA Champions Cup. The U.S. also won a matchup in the World Cup last month, but the Dominican Republic won another five-set match in the Nations League preliminary round in Italy.

The U.S. finishes the year with a 44-7 record in tournament play, including a first-place finish in the Nations League and second place in the World Cup.

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