Best of the Mixed Zone: Christian Coleman’s Call from Maurice Greene, Will Claye May Skip Outdoors to Promote His Album, & Michael Cherry’s Unorthodox Medal-Winning Meal

By Jonathan Gault
March 3, 2018

BIRMINGHAM, England — Night three at the 2018 IAAF World Indoor Championships was full of action, from Drew Windle’s medal-DQ-medal in the men’s 800 to Christian Coleman winning his first global title in the 60 to the top two finishers in the men’s 400 being disqualified to hand the Czech Republic’s Pavel Maslak a third straight World Indoor title. It certainly was an amazing night for Team USA as they won 5 gold medals  m60, w60h, w400, mtj and wpv – smashing three championship records in the process.

Recapping every single thing that happened would take far too long, but if you want a full recap of the distance events, check out the LRC recaps of the men’s 800 and women’s 1500 and if you want a full recap of the other events, check out the IAAF website.

Instead, I’ll try to justify my presence in Birmingham by bringing you the coolest stuff I learned from the mixed zone this evening. For all LRC videos from the mixed zone, click here.

Remember this night: Christian Coleman's first world title © Getty Images for IAAF Remember this night: Christian Coleman’s first world title © Getty Images for IAAF

Christian Coleman took a phone call from former WR holder Maurice Greene during the middle of his interview in the mixed zone

Thirty-three seconds into his interview in the mixed zone, newly-crowned 60 meter world champion Christian Coleman heard a deep voice — and it did not belong to a media member.

“Maurice is calling for you,” said Coleman’s agent, Emanuel Hudson.

Rather than ask him to call back, Coleman took the phone and proceeded to accept congratulations from Greene (a former client of Hudson’s, and the previous world record holder at 60 meters and previously championship recorder at Worlds before Coleman broke both marks in the last two weeks). Quickly, the cameras and smartphones moved inward to catch a snippet of the conversation, and rather than turn away, Coleman kindly put Greene on speakerphone so the press could listen in. The conversation is not super clear in the video below, but it’s audible (neither Coleman nor Greene said anything too noteworthy).

Unlike Usain Bolt, bravado isn’t part of Coleman’s makeup, and that’s fine. The two men will naturally be compared because of their talent, but Coleman isn’t Bolt. No one is. Coleman is his own man, brilliant in his own way, and the world will come to know him more fully in time.

But so far, he’s proven adept at handling the escalating levels of fame accompanying his career. Rather than complain about a potentially awkward situation when his world-record time of 6.37 in January was not ratified, Coleman simply went out and broke it again a month later. In fact, before this year, only one man in history (Greene) had ever broken 6.40 seconds for 60 meters. Coleman did it in three of the four finals he contested in 2018.

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The Greene phone call was another example of Coleman’s savvy. Coleman could have declined the call and been labeled disrespectful by Greene. Or he could have accepted it, walked away from the mixed zone and been labeled disrespectful by the media. So he chose a third option, allowing the media a peek at a special moment while appeasing Greene as well. Christian Coleman is a smooth operator, on and off the track.

Will Claye won the triple jump world title after practicing jumping once all year; now he’s probably taking off the outdoor season to promote his new album

Claye has been overshadowed by countryman Christian Taylor for most of his career; if not for his rival, he would have two Olympic golds and a world outdoor title. But Taylor doesn’t compete indoors, and Claye has shined under the roof, with a World Indoor title in 2012 and another tonight thanks to his 17.43 world leader in round four. That was just enough for the gold as Claye edged bronze medalist Nelson Evora of Portugal by three centimeters and silver medalist Almir Dos Santos of Brazil by two.

Clay revealed after the competition that since he began preparations for the 2018 season in October, he has practiced jumping only once all year (he usually does it once a week). A flu knocked him out in the fall, forcing him to get a late start on practice. When he returned, he was a shell of himself.

“My lungs were just so bad, I couldn’t even finish workouts. I just was really struggling…For a while, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I’m just like, ‘Coach, I just don’t feel like myself.’”

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Claye eventually took an extended break, and finally got back to jumping in practice the week before USAs. He showed up to Albuquerque for his first meet of the season, won USAs, and then showed up to Worlds two weeks later and won that, too.

So what is he going to do now that he’s able to jump again?

“I don’t know if I’m doing outdoors,” Claye said. “I’m getting ready to release an album, a music album. So I think that might be my focus for the rest of this year. We’ll see.”

Claye said he totally decided what he’ll do yet, but the album has already been recorded and his new single is dropping on Sunday. With no outdoor world champs this year, Claye said the time is right to take a step back from track and focus on touring and promoting his album.

“It’s just a passion of mine. I really want to pursue music and I feel like this is the time to do it.”

Is the athlete’s diet overrated? Michael Cherry got his dinner last night from a late-night fast food takeaway place

After a long night at the track on Friday, I headed down Broad Street in search of food. It was nearing midnight, and very few places remained open. I stopped in at a somewhat dodgy-looking takeaway place called Pit Stop (open ‘til 6 a.m.!) happy to find that they were still serving food.

As I waited for my order, I noticed another customer in Team USA gear. He looked familiar, and indeed he was: it was 400-meter runner Michael Cherry, who had qualified for Saturday’s final after running two rounds of the 400 on Friday and was looking for something to eat.

Cherry had ordered room service at the Team USA hotel, but they cancelled his order. But a guy’s gotta eat, so Cherry went outside, navigated the treacherous snow-covered sidewalks of Broad Street and found his way to Pit Stop, where he ordered some mushroom chicken pasta and garlic bread. He sat in a booth for 10 minutes waiting on the order before returning to his hotel room and digging in just before 1 a.m.

“They actually gave me my garlic bread with cheese on it, I didn’t want that,” Cherry said. “But the food was pretty good, though. That was the only thing I could find. I was walking in the snow looking for food.”

The unorthodox pre-race meal worked as Cherry came back tonight and earned his first individual global medal by finishing second in 45.84.

Of course, this being the 400 meters, he couldn’t earn that medal at this meet without controversy. Initially, Cherry crossed the line in fourth place as Spain’s Oscar Husillos won with a championship record of 44.92. But Husillos and silver medalist Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic were disqualified for — what else — a lane violation, elevating Pavel Maslak to gold (his third indoor 400 title) and Cherry to silver.

“It’s not really the way I wanted to [medal],” Cherry said.

He admitted, however, that after a string of DQs in the first round, he was extra conscious of his foot placement in the final two rounds.

“I didn’t do that until I got here,” Cherry said. “So when I got here, I actually focused on looking down. Yesterday in the semifinals, I looked down before I cut over and then today I was kind of doing the same thing. That’s when I noticed that they came over too early when we got to the break, because I was looking at my lane making sure I could cut over in time.”

Keni Harrison takes the monkey off her back by winning her first world title

Harrison has been the best high hurdler in the world for the past two years, except for when it mattered most. Despite setting the world record in 2016 and winning all of her meets leading into Worlds last year, she failed to make the 2016 Olympic team and failed to medal at the 2017 Worlds.

A world indoor title isn’t quite on the same level as an outdoor crown, but she crushed a very strong field tonight, tying the American record in the process at 7.70. Finally, she delivered on the world championship stage.

“I knew I had it in me,” Harrison said. “It just took a great coach (Edrick Floreal) to bring it out of me.”

Before the meet, Floreal told Harrison that “there’s a lot more angels out there who are rooting for me than haters” and that helped Harrison remain calm. He also told her to set the tone in the very first round, and Harrison did that, recording the fastest time of the prelims (7.77).

“From the jump, he told me to run a fast time,” Harrison said. “Set the tone. Just to do that, that was definitely a confidence booster, to run 7.7 from the jump.”

Harrison is excited about what is to come outdoors. She noted that in 2016, she ran 7.77 indoors and went on to break the world record in the 100 hurdles outdoors. Running 7.70 today could lead to even faster things this summer — perhaps the world’s first sub-12.20 clocking?

More videos from the mixed zone below:

Sandi Morris on her clutch final-attempt clearances at 4.90 and 4.95 meters to earn her first world title in pole vault

Courtney Okolo on how she was able to win 400 gold

Ronnie Baker on his 60m bronze

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