Road To The Olympic Games

Track and Field·Analysis

New generation of Americans continuing world track and field domination

Since the IAAF world athletics championships came into being in 1983 in Helsinki, runners, jumpers and throwers from the United States have won 370 medals (and counting), with 164 of those medals being gold. These new wave of American stars will only keep that going well into the future.

Tokyo Olympics already on the minds of Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles and the rest of their compatriots

Despite his fame and new 100-metre world title, Christian Coleman remains understated and patient. (Nariman El-Mofty/Associated Press)

American track and field athletes are so good at winning medals that sometimes the rest of us get turned off by them.

Too much swagger…too much glitter…too much gold.

History speaks for itself. 

Since the IAAF world athletics championships came into being in 1983 in Helsinki, runners, jumpers and throwers from the United States have won 370 medals (and counting), with 164 of those medals being gold. The next country on the list is Kenya with 144 podium finishes while Canada has claimed 35 total medals.

We're talking about the undisputed track superpower here.

And yet, the United States has never been the host of the world's athletic summit although Eugene, Oregon will get the call at long last in 2021.

Western Europe is considered to be the heartland of the sport and the voices you hear in the stadium here in Qatar who provide the expert commentary and analysis are British.  

The modest crowd here favours the African athletes, the Canadians like Andre DeGrasse, Jamaica's four-time 100-metre world champion nicknamed the "Pocket Rocket," Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, or the newly crowned English darling, Dina Asher-Smith, who was well feted at Khalifa International Stadium for her win in the women's 200.

Meantime, the athletes in stars and stripes are revealing themselves to be a new generation of hotshots who are again storming to victory at these championships. And they're doing it while winning fans at the same time. They are young, supremely talented, extremely open, friendly, and articulate.

Christian Coleman, the men's 100 champion is only 23 years of age and looks to be on top for quite some time. He's understated and patient whenever you speak with him.

"I'm blessed," is his favourite refrain. He seems thankful for his talent.

WATCH | Christian Coleman blazed to 100-metre gold:

Coleman claims 100m gold, De Grasse personal best for bronze

Sports

2 years ago
8:37
Christian Coleman of the United States wins 100m with personal best 9.76 seconds, Andre De Grasse finishes 3rd while fellow Canadian Aaron Brown places 8th. 8:37

Women's hammer throw champion DeAnna Price is a 26-year-old from St. Charles, Mo., whose young career has been riddled with injury and she's only got one kidney. Once she wanted to go to the Olympics as a softball player but she got into the throws and she'll be making the journey to Tokyo as world champion.

Price is an effervescent character and as she danced through the mixed zone the other day, she was asked for a photograph only to happily oblige.

"For sure … Americans and Canadians are basically, family anyways," she exclaimed … and then proceeded to hug the photographer.

DeAnna Price will be heading to the Tokyo Olympics as the women’s hammer throw world champion. (Michael Steele/Getty Images)

'I can't wait for the Olympics'

Or how about the young and phenomenal Donovan Brazier, who at 22 became the first American man to win the 800 world title in a championship record time of one minute 42.34 seconds.

"I can't wait for the Olympics," Brazier said with great humility. "This is wonderful but as soon as I crossed the line in this race Tokyo 2020 was on my mind."

It's a sentiment echoed by 27-year-old American team captain Sam Kendricks, who won his second consecutive pole vault world title here.

Kendricks is a first lieutenant in the U.S army reserve. He's loquacious and wonderfully philosophical. As the leader of the squad in Doha he succinctly distilled what the Americans are up to in the new generation.

"Great competitions like this are only made when you have players who are really fierce. The world championships will always bring more out of you than the average, professional, track meet," he reasoned. "But ultimately you have to respect the Olympics.

"The Olympics is the gauge by which the world views our sport."

WATCH | Donovan Brazier clams 800-metre gold:

Brazier claims gold in 800m, Arop places 7th

Sports

2 years ago
4:40
American Donavan Brazier wins the 800m at track and field worlds, Canada's Marco Arop finishes 7th. 4:40

Grant Holloway will be a factor at his first Olympics. He too is a rising star and at age 21 reminiscent of the late Jesse Owens, who famously won four gold medals at the 1936 Games in Berlin.

Holloway won the 110 hurdles gold medal in Qatar, but he is also a sprinter and long jumper. A graduate of the University of Florida track program, Holloway is multi-talented but endearingly awestruck by winning the title at his first world championships.

As he succinctly forged his way through the interview area he made clear what his first priority was after the race.

"I just want to get to my phone and call my parents back home to tell them that I won," he smiled.  And then he paid tribute to his alma mater. "Go Gators," he said looking right at the camera.

He didn't forget the people that helped him get here.

Don't forget about Noah Lyles

Finally there is the charming and delightful 22-year-old Noah Lyles. He is the 200 world champion and tagged to be the next main man of track and field. He is without question the heir apparent to the great Jamaican Usain Bolt in terms of the sport's worldwide brand.

Lyles loves comic books, Dragon Ball Z, and he does flips whenever he wins while playing to the crowd and flashing a huge and generous smile at all times.

He is a friendly and open person, but Lyles is on a mission. He came here to focus on one event, the 200, although he could have chosen to run the 100 and relay as well and arguably could have won them all.

"I didn't want a silver medal or a bronze and two silvers," he said in a matter-of-fact way. "I wanted a gold medal in the 200."

It all boils down to the ultimate destination for Lyles, and it's the same for every competitor here. The theory that track and field athletes from the United States have bought into is that these world championships are great but they're just a prelude to the greater glory that may lie ahead.

And exactly what is that?

"I want to go with my best bet," Lyles offered. "I want to go to Tokyo 2020 saying I am the 200-metre world champion."

WATCH | Noah Lyles captures gold in 200:

De Grasse claims 200m silver at track and field worlds

Sports

2 years ago
4:54
Canada's Andre De Grasse finishes 2nd in 200 metres, American Noah Lyle wins gold while Canadian Aaron Brown places 6th. 4:54

In other words, he wants the Olympics.

They may be more approachable, sincere, and generous than ever before but the young Americans have one thing on their mind and it's out there for the whole world to see. They're bound for the real deal next summer in Japan. They're going to the Olympics.

And as group, they're going there to win.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott Russell has worked for the CBC for more than 30 years and covered 14 editions of the Olympics. He is a winner of the Gemini Award, Canadian Screen Award and CBC President's Award. Scott is the host of Olympic Games Prime Time and the co-Host with Andi Petrillo of Road to the Olympic Games. He is also the author of three books: The Rink, Ice-Time and Open House."

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