The world’s four fastest men since the Rio Olympics gather for a 100m showdown on Friday. They’re all Americans.
Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles, Ronnie Baker and Mike Rodgers headline a Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, live on NBC Sports Gold at 1:55 p.m. ET and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at 3 p.m.
The question when Usain Bolt retired last year was who would succeed him as the world’s fastest man. Bolt is irreplaceable in the sport, so, fittingly, it has been a group effort. Though none of these Americans have come close to Bolt’s world record 9.58.
Coleman came first. In 2017, he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.12 seconds, one tenth faster than the NFL Combine record. Then he clocked 9.82 seconds at the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships, which remains the fastest time in the world since the Rio Games. Then he beat Bolt in the semifinals and final of the 2017 Worlds, taking silver to Justin Gatlin overall.
This past winter, Coleman ran faster than the 60m world record three times in the indoor season. He looked like the next sprint king — especially given Gatlin is 36 years old — until slowed by a hamstring injury in the spring. Rabat marks Coleman’s first race since May 31.
Lyles and Baker took the baton from Coleman this outdoor season. Baker, who grew up running cross-country backdropped by moose in Alaska, beat Coleman in back-to-back May meets.
Lyles, fourth in the 200m at the Olympic Trials shortly after his high school graduation, dropped down to the 100m at USATF Outdoors last month and won in the fastest time in the world this year, edging Baker. Baker responded by matching Lyles’ 9.88 a week later.
Rodgers, a 33-year-old veteran without any global championship 100m medals, has clocked his best times in three years in a bit of a resurgent season.
There are no world championships this summer. Looking ahead, Coleman, Lyles and Baker have the credentials and the youth to be early favorites for the 2019 Worlds and 2020 Olympics.
Jamaica’s men’s sprint program has tumbled like the bizarre end to Bolt’s career. They have no men in the top 20 in the world this year. Olympic bronze medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada just prematurely ended his season for a second straight year due to hamstring injuries.
Maybe somebody else comes along — Great Britain’s Zharnel Hughes (personal best 9.91) must be mentioned — but for now the U.S. owns the 100m for the first time in a more than a decade. That will be clear to anybody watching Rabat on Friday.
Here are the Rabat entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):
1:55 p.m. — Men’s Long Jump
2:07 — Women’s High Jump
2:23 — Women’s Shot Put
2:30 — Men’s Pole Vault
3:04 — Men’s 400m
3:12 — Women’s 800m
3:21 — Men’s 1500m
3:32 — Women’s 200m
3:34 — Men’s Javelin
3:39 — Men’s 3000m
3:42 — Women’s Triple Jump
3:57 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
4:05 — Women’s 5000m
4:30 — Men’s 100m
4:38 — Women’s 1000m
4:46 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
Here are five events to watch:
Men’s Pole Vault — 2:30 p.m. ET
London Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie and world champion Sam Kendricks even split their six head-to-heads so far this season, with Lavillenie holding a 16-14 career heat-to-head, according to Tilastopaja.org. The last time both men entered a meet and neither won was the Rio Olympics. That gold medalist, the struggling Thiago Braz of Brazil, hasn’t won an international outdoor competition since the Games and ranks No. 92 in the world this outdoor campaign. All are in the Rabat field.
Women’s 200m — 3:32 p.m. ET
Six women could realistically win this. Like rising Harvard senior Gabby Thomas, who was runner-up at the NCAA Championships on June 9, then won the Lausanne Diamond League 200m last Thursday. The Rabat field is clearly tougher, with Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, world indoor 60m champion Murielle Ahoure of Cote d’Ivoire and U.S. champion Jenna Prandini.
Men’s 3000m — 3:39 p.m. ET
This field has just about every 5000m star one could hope for, minus Selemon Barega, the Ethiopian who was grabbed by the shorts by countryman Yomif Kejelcha in the Lausanne 5000m last Thursday. Kejelcha is in this field, but their grudge match must wait. Also here: Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew, who took advantage of the Ethiopian exchange to win in Switzerland. And world champion Muktar Edris of Ethiopia, plus Olympic and world medalist Paul Chelimo of the U.S.
Women’s 5000m — 4:05 p.m. ET
World champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya takes on a diverse field. Start with Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500m world-record holder who ranks fourth all-time in the 5000m and handed Obiri her first defeat at the distance since 2016 at the Pre Classic on May 26. There’s also Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, once arguably the world’s top 1500m runner who was third in the 5000m at 2017 Worlds. Then there’s American Molly Huddle, who has transitioned to the marathon but makes her Diamond League season debut here.
Men’s 100m — 4:30 p.m. ET
The key will be Coleman’s health. The Coleman from last summer and winter beats Lyles and Baker. If Coleman is not 100 percent, things get interesting. Coleman and Baker are excellent starters — Coleman a bit better than Baker — while Lyles should be in chase mode. He had enough track to pass Baker at nationals and win by .02.
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