GATLIN OUT TO SPOIL BOLT’S FAREWELL

Amer­i­can gets one last chance to turn the ta­bles on Ja­maican leg­end at world athletics cham­pi­onships

New Straits Times - - Sport -

JUSTIN Gatlin has be­come in­creas­ingly ir­ri­tated at be­ing la­bel led the dope cheat con­trast­ing with Usain Bolt’s su­per­hero im­age in the sprint­ing world, but he can set that aside by spoil­ing the lat­ter’s farewell at the world athletics cham­pi­onships.

The 35-year-old Amer­i­can – who last year be­came the old­est man to win a 100m Olympic medal when he took sil­ver be­hind his neme­sis Bolt – gets one last go at the Ja­maican leg­end when the world cham­pi­onships get un­der­way in Lon­don on Friday.

It will be ask­ing a lot of Gatlin – who served a four-year ban re­duced from eight for dop­ing from 2006-2010 – to achieve that hav­ing only beaten Bolt once in nine pre­vi­ous meet­ings over the shorter sprint dis­tance, and that was four years ago in Rome.

There ex­ists a mu­tual re­spect between the two old ri­vals to the ex­tent the Ja­maican was hor­ri­fied by the boo­ing and jeer­ing of the Amer­i­can prior to the 100m fi­nal in Rio last year, and then again at the medal cer­e­mony.

“I per­son­ally think he’s a great ath­lete,” said Bolt af­ter Rio.

“He shows up and pushes you to run fast and be at your best at all times.”

Gatlin too is gush­ing about Bolt, whose crowd-pleas­ing an­tics have gilded his im­age as the good guy whilst the Amer­i­can has of­ten been cast as a pan­tomime vil­lain.

“I have the ut­most re­spect for Usain,” said Gatlin.

“Away from the track, he’s a great guy, he’s a cool guy, there is no ri­valry between us. There is no bad blood. I’m a com­peti­tor, he’s a com­peti­tor and he has pushed me to be the ath­lete that I am to­day.”

Gatlin – who has been one of the most tested ath­letes in sport since his re­turn from the ban – showed his class in adding Olympic bronze (2012) and sil­ver in the 100m to go with the gold he won in the pre-Bolt era in Athens in 2004, when he also took bronze in the 200m.

He has the full house of Olympic 100m medals – plus a plethora of world medals in­clud­ing the 100m and 200m golds from 2005 – but whether it mea­sures up to what he could have won, had he not fallen foul of the dope testers when he was a mem­ber of the now dis­graced Trevor Gra­ham sta­ble, is a moot point. AFP

There is no ri­valry between us. There is no bad blood. I’m a com­peti­tor, he’s a com­peti­tor and he has pushed me to be the ath­lete that I am to­day.

JUSTIN GATLIN

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