Seb Coe Q&A: Track and field’s global conversation and the sport’s hot topics

Seb Coe
Getty Images

World Athletics President Seb Coe recognizes that this is a unique time for track and field.

Not only do the Olympic Games open in three months, but the sport will also have an unprecedented run of global outdoor championships in five consecutive years — Tokyo Olympics; 2022 World Championships in Eugene, Oregon; 2023 World Championships in Budapest; Paris Olympics and 2025 World Championships at a to-be-determined venue.

A current focus is the Global Conversation, an ongoing public survey by World Athletics to shape the governing body’s decision-making through 2030. Coe also noted an emergence of linking the sport, which has a foundation of a basic human exercise of running, to recovery and resurfacing from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Physical inactivity arguably has also left vulnerable groups of people to the pandemic in all its awfulness,” Coe said. “So I think there’s a recognition that we should, as a sport, be reinforcing the role that we play in our community level and certainly sitting alongside the agendas that local, regional and national governments are setting.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Coe also answered questions on current events in track and field.

Cross-country’s bid for Olympic inclusion
In December, World Athletics’ bid to add a mixed-gender cross-country relay to the Olympics in 2024 was denied. The IOC didn’t add any of the dozens of proposed new events within existing Olympic sports unless existing events were dropped. The IOC said then that “limiting the overall number of events is a key element in curbing the growth of the Olympic program as well as additional costs.”

“I think their [the IOC’s] view was that this wasn’t the right moment to introduce other cost elements into the Games, but they certainly haven’t closed the door on the concept of cross-country,” Coe said. “They more than left it open. So those discussions will continue, and they will continue with the hope that once we get beyond Tokyo and a successful delivery of those Games that there will be a bit more bandwidth. Maybe in Los Angeles in 2028.”

Christian Coleman’s reduced suspension
Coleman, the world’s fastest man in 2017, 2018 and 2019, accepted that he will not be at the Tokyo Olympics after his two-year suspension for missing (but not failing) drug tests was reduced to 18 months on appeal earlier this month. The ban ends in November.

Coleman’s agency published excerpts from the court’s decision (which hasn’t been published in full), notably: “Closer examination of the training material in fact suggests that the training received by the athlete reinforced the practice of a DCO [doping control officer] placing a call before the expiry of the 60-minute slot.”

A call is not required, but Coleman said that he received calls every other time he was not at home for a drug test, except for the one in December 2019 that ended up being his third and final strike after he previously missed two that year.

Coe said he would not speak specifically about Coleman. The Athletics Integrity Unit handles anti-doping cases in track and field independently from World Athletics. But Coe has spoken regularly with athletes about the system.

“What would I say more broadly, the whereabouts issue, the whereabouts protocol is a tried and tested protocol,” Coe said. “The vast majority of athletes actually take comfort from the fact that is in place. The Athletics Integrity Unit have been very clear about the processes that they were involved in. They feel that they were properly done, properly recorded.

“Athletes have very sophisticated networks around them now to make sure that if there is any risk that they are not able to be where they’re supposed to be, that there are ways of remedying that and addressing that very quickly.”

ON HER TURF: Nikki Hiltz is visible, vulnerable, and making track more inclusive

Athlete demonstrations/Olympic Charter Rule 50
Last week, the IOC announced its executive board approved recommendations from its athlete commission regarding athlete demonstrations at the Olympics based on a global athlete survey. While increased opportunities for athlete expression are coming, one rule that remains in place is one disallowing certain Olympic athlete demonstrations, including hand gestures and kneeling, on medal podiums, in the field of play and at Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

In December, the most famous athletes to express themselves in such ways at the Olympics, sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, received the World Athletics President’s Award from Coe to recognize exceptional service in the sport.

The IOC rule on athlete demonstrations is strictly for the Olympic Games. How would World Athletics view it if an athlete made the same podium gesture as Smith and Carlos at its major events, such as this week’s World Relays or next year’s world championships in Oregon?

“My instinct here is that we need to look at this carefully, but we also need to recognize that athletes are part of the world that we live in,” Coe answered. “We have to recognize that there are going to be occasions where they do feel extremely strongly about issues. I’m not one for closing down the natural emotions or the views of athletes, as long as it’s done respectfully and it’s done in a way that doesn’t damage other competitors and their moment as well. This is something that our sport is clearly looking at. I think we will wait for more detail on this [regarding the Olympic policy] and hear what the athletes are more broadly saying.”

World Championships
From their inception in 1976, the world outdoor track and field championships were once every four years until the 1990s. They have been biennial since, leaving one fallow year in every quad without an Olympics or a world championships. That year was supposed to be 2022, but the Olympic postponement to 2021 led to the postponement of the next world championships to 2022.

Some other Olympic sports, most notably artistic gymnastics, hold world championships in every year that is not an Olympic year. Track and field has world indoor championships in even years to fill its gap, but they are not as big as the outdoor worlds. Would Coe like to see the world outdoor championships held in every non-Olympic year, which would mean adding a worlds for 2026 or 2030?

“We are always looking at how we can grab more space, more interest, more air time, greater traction across a crowded and cluttered landscape,” he said, noting the annual Diamond League and the addition of three Continental Tour stops in the U.S. “I think at the moment the balance is about right, but that’s a discussion the sport may have.”

Coe also said that World Athletics was sorry to see the annual Diamond League stop in New York City change format and drop from that circuit after 2015. “We would of course always be encouraging of more USA meetings,” he said. “It’s very important for us.”

Caster Semenya
The two-time Olympic 800m champion is barred from the 400m through the mile unless she takes testosterone-suppressing measures under new World Athletics rules. Semenya chose to move up to the 5000m instead. While she has said the Tokyo Olympics are not her focus, she could get close to qualifying either by time or through world ranking if she continues competing in the distance event this spring.

Would World Athletics consider extending a special invitation to Semenya for an Olympic 5000m place if she is close to qualifying, given her exceptional circumstances?

“It’s not something that’s been discussed,” Coe said. “And I think if I’m being honest it’s a very hypothetical issue. … We have a system, and that system will work across the board.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Fred Kerley flies into Florence via Grenada; Diamond League broadcast schedule

Fred Kerley

American Fred Kerley is about to race on a fourth different continent this year, but the seeds for this season — and all of his medal-winning seasons — were planted on the sand, grass and pavement of Grenada.

Kerley, the world 100m champion, headlines Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence, Italy. Peacock streams it live from 2-4 p.m. ET. CNBC airs coverage Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

It was to be a showdown between Kerley and the Olympic 100m champion, Marcell Jacobs of Italy. But Jacobs withdrew on Tuesday due to the nerve pain that has pushed back the start of his outdoor season. Jacobs withdrew from six scheduled races with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since winning that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, who traded social media barbs with Jacobs earlier this spring, indicated a detente in a press conference Thursday.

“I’m not upset that he’s not competing, just wish him health and that he gets back to competing at 100 percent,” he said.

When speaking of himself, Kerley kept his trademark confidence. He wore a hat with a goat on it on Thursday and repeated that his focus is on two numbers: 9.69 (Tyson Gay‘s American record in the 100m) and 9.58 (Usain Bolt‘s world record). Kerley’s personal best, in two-plus years since dropping down from the 400m, is 9.76.

He resides in South Florida, a place that allows an outdoor athlete to train year-round. Kerley eschews that. He annually flies to Grenada for up to six-week stays.

“[I] work on a lot of specific stuff in Grenada to get me to the level I need to be when Budapest comes around,” Kerley said, referring to August’s world championships in the Hungarian capital, where he will bid to become the first man to repeat as world 100m champion since Bolt in 2013 and 2015.

Why Grenada? His Texas-based coach, Alleyne Francique, competed at three Olympics for the Spice Island, including placing fourth in the 400m at the 2004 Athens Games. That was the best Olympic finish for any Grenada athlete until Kirani James won a 400m medal of every color at the last three Games.

Francique recruited Kerley to Texas A&M out of junior college in 2015. When Kerley turned pro in 2017, he moved to the ALTIS training facility in Arizona. After a year, he went back to Francique at College Station — “It didn’t work out for me. I won’t say anything bad about the program,” he said in 2019, according to Track and Field News. Kerley has since moved to Florida, but Francique still coaches him remotely from Texas.

Kerley has trained in Grenada’s national stadium in St. George’s, which in 2017 was named after James. But a more unique venue for Kerley is a paved hill near the home of one of Francique’s friends.

“There’s no traffic, so it’s a good area to train,” Francique said.

There are few distractions there, aside from chickens, ducks and cattle. Francique noted that in the three seasons that Kerley trained in Grenada, he won bronze (2019 Worlds 400m), silver (Tokyo Olympic 100m) and gold (2022 Worlds 100m).

“So next year, maybe, he breaks a world record,” Francique said.

Here are the Florence entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

12:30 p.m. — Women’s Discus
12:45 — Men’s Triple Jump
1:15 — Men’s Shot Put
1:43 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:04 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:15 — Men’s 200m
2:20 — Men’s High Jump
2:25 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:42 — Women’s Long Jump
2:44 — Women’s 100m
2:56 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 5000m
3:28 — Women’s 400m
3:39 — Men’s 100m
3:49 — Women’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:43 p.m. ET
Just like the Diamond League season opener in Doha, the field has the top five from the last year’s worlds, led by Americans Katie Moon and Sandi Morris, the gold and silver medalists. Moon is the world leader this year indoors and outdoors, though she no-heighted at last Saturday’s Los Angeles Grand Prix. Come August’s worlds, she will look to become the first woman to repeat as world champ in the pole vault in 16 years. Morris, who was third in Doha, eyes her first global outdoor title after four silvers between the Olympics and worlds.

Women’s Long Jump — 2:42 p.m. ET
A gathering of the world’s most accomplishes active jumpers — Olympic and world champion Malaika Mihambo of Germany, Olympic and world medalist Ese Brume of Nigeria — and the top Americans — Quanesha Burks and Tara Davis-Woodhall. They’re all chasing 7.08 meters, the world’s best leap this year recorded by Jamaican Ackelia Smith, a University of Texas sophomore.

Men’s 5000m — 3:06 p.m. ET
Field includes Olympic 5000m champion Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda, Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega of Ethiopia and world silver medalist Jacob Krop of Kenya as well as reigning U.S. 5000m and 10,000m champions Grant Fisher and Joe Klecker. Cheptegei, the world record holder, was ninth at last July’s worlds and since has strictly raced on the roads and in cross country.

Men’s 100m — 3:39 p.m. ET
The entire podium from last year’s worlds meets here: Kerley and countrymen Marvin Bracy-Williams and Trayvon Bromell. It’s a similar field to last Sunday, when Kerley prevailed by five hundredths over South African Akani Simbine. Simbine is back, as is Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, who is the world’s fastest man this year (9.84) but was third in Rabat.

Women’s 1500m — 3:49 p.m. ET
Kenyan Faith Kipyegon, a double Olympic and double world champion, ran the world’s fastest time of 2023 at the Diamond League opener in Doha on May 5. Then last weekend, four different Ethiopians ran faster. Kipyegon figures to be faster in Florence than she was in Doha given the addition of Brit Laura Muir, the Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, in her outdoor season debut.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
1 Comment

The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

No. 9 Taylor Fritz, No. 12 Frances Tiafoe and No. 16 Tommy Paul are the highest-seeded Americans, all looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw