Doha: Christian Coleman made a smooth start to his bid for World Championship gold in Doha Friday, romping to a comfortable victory in the opening round of the 100 metres heats.
The 23-year-old American sprinter, the fastest man in the world this season -- eased up well before the line to win his heat in 9.98sec at the Khalifa Stadium.
Coleman, who narrowly escaped a drugs ban earlier this month, was the only man to duck under 10 seconds in the first round. Akani Simbine of South Africa was second fastest in 10.01sec with defending champion and veteran Justin Gatlin third quickest in 10.06.
An unhappy-looking Coleman later brushed past journalists following his heat, saying nothing other than a cursory 'Felt great.' Coleman's participation in Qatar had been thrown into doubt last month after it emerged he had registered three drug-testing "whereabouts" failures in a 12-month period.
That left Coleman potentially facing a lengthy suspension for an offence regarded as equivalent to a failed drug test. However, the case against Coleman was withdrawn after the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) received guidance on how the 12-month window used to determine the offence should be calculated.
Coleman has strongly denied wrongdoing, insisting earlier this month he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs and never would. On Friday, he let his performance on the track do his talking. Exploding out of the blocks, he eased up well before the line to finish ahead of Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs and Abdul Hakim Sani Brown of Japan.
Meanwhile, the 37-year-old Gatlin was satisfied with his performance, while acknowledging that the absence of great rival Usain Bolt, who retired in 2017, was disconcerting. "Not having him here feels weird at a major championship, not having someone out there to push me," Gatlin said.
Gatlin, racing for the first time since suffering a hamstring strain earlier this month, said he was happy to come through the heat unscathed. "If felt good," he said. "I just wanted to be technically sound from the blocks, dominate the middle part of the race and show that I can ease up before the end."