US sprinter Christian Coleman stormed to 100 meters gold at the World Athletics Championships in Doha Saturday, shrugging off the controversy that had threatened his participation in the global showpiece.
Coleman was a hot favorite going into the final and did not disappoint with a blistering winning time of 9.76 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year and sixth best of all time.
Reigning world champion Justin Gatlin took the silver medal, with Canadian Andre De Grasse completing the podium in 9.90 seconds, with the first five men crossing the line in under 10 seconds in perfect conditions.
“World champion, it sounds incredible, too good to be true. For me to make it here and come out with a gold is incredible,” Coleman said after winning his first global individual gold and establishing himself as the man to beat at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics next year.
But Coleman had looked set to miss the championships after it emerged in August that he had missed three drugs tests in 12 months under the ‘whereabouts’ system and was potentially facing an automatic one-year ban.
The case against the 23-year-old, who has vigorously protested his innocence of doping, was eventually dropped on a technicality over dates and he was allowed to compete.
Coleman told CNN in an interview before the championships that he received a phone call from US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis Tygart offering an apology.
Gatlin, claiming silver at 37 years of age, has also had a career dogged by controversy, banned by USADA between 2006 and 2010 for two positive doping tests, but showed all his experience after a disappointing semifinal performance.
In an embarrassment for organizers, the compelling action on the track was watched by a sparse crowd in the low thousands in the Khalifa Stadium.
Many who had been in the giant stadium departed after Sifan Hassan won the first gold medal of the track events as the Dutch athlete took the women’s 10,000 meters title, her first global gold.
The 26-year-old Ethiopian-born athlete clocked the fastest time of the year – 30 minutes 17.62 seconds – to race clear of former compatriot Letesenbet Gidey on the final lap of 25.
Agnes Tirop of Kenya took the bronze.
The first medal of the championships went to Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich, claiming women’s marathon gold in an event that was controversially started at a minute before midnight on Friday due to the heat and humidity.
READ: Midnight marathon gets IAAF go-ahead
A total of 28 from the 68-strong field failed to finish, despite the measures taken, with temperatures touching 32 degrees centigrade with 70 percent humidity.
Her winning time of two hours 32 minutes 43 seconds, over a quarter of an hour slower than the world record, reflected the conditions.