By Gene Cherry
LONDON (Reuters) - Christian Coleman may be a newcomer to international competition but the young American sprinter is not backing down on his chances against the likes of Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin in the World Athletics Championships 100 metres.
"For me to even have my name up there with those type of guys that's a blessing and a humbling feeling," the 21-year-old told a U.S. press conference on Thursday.
"But I feel like I work hard and I deserve to be on this stage," said the American collegiate champion who has the year's fastest time of 9.82 seconds.
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"I'm ready to compete no matter who is on the line."
Many have labeled him the next great American sprinter and Coleman told Reuters earlier in the year he was ready to accept the challenge.
Competition in the 100 metres begins on Friday at the London Stadium with the final on Saturday set to be the retiring Bolt's last 100 metres of a nearly decade long career.
Coleman, who said he grew up watching the Jamaican, offered high praise for the world record holder.
"He's meant a lot," the American said. "He has done some things that 20 years ago lot of people would not even think they could be done. He has the record at the 100 and 200. He's like the greatest of all time."
But Coleman, who finished second to Gatlin in the U.S. championships in his first races after turning pro, made it clear he was ready to compete against the best.
"I'm locked in and focused in and when you do that, special things happen. To be able to come out with a win that's everybody's goal so I will be ready."
Coleman also qualified to run in the championships in the 200 metres, but because of his long collegiate season he decided to focus on the 100 and the 4x100 metres relay.
He and Olympic silver medallist Gatlin are the only U.S. collegians to win a sprint double in the same school year, capturing the 60 and 200 metres indoors and the 100 and 200 outdoors.
(Editing by Keith Weir)