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Gatlin eager for showdown with Bolt
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 12 - 05 - 2015

LONDON — Justin Gatlin ruled the track last season in a very Usain Bolt-like fashion: 18 wins in 18 races.

Impressive and all, but comes with a tiny caveat: Bolt never lined up in the lane next to Gatlin last summer. The Jamaican world-record holder took time off to heal nagging injuries since there were no major meets.

Now bring on the planet's fastest sprinter, though their first 100-meter showdown may not take place until August at the world championships in Beijing.

The wait is fine with Gatlin — builds intrigue. It also gives the 33-year-old American more time to get up to speed in the 200 as well, because he's going after both of Bolt's world titles.

In new shoes, too, after returning to Nike, the company that dropped him after his doping offense in 2006 led to a four-year ban.

“Usain's obviously the gold standard,” said Gatlin, who kicks off the defense of his 100-meter Diamond League crown in Doha, Qatar, Friday. “I can't sit here and belittle him and say, ‘Hey man, he's not the guy.'
Because he is the guy. He's broken a lot of records people thought were unbreakable.”

Gatlin's certainly not intimidated by Bolt, who's captured gold in the 100 and 200 at the last two Olympics. After all, it was Gatlin who handed Bolt a rare loss at a meet in Rome two years ago, when he out-leaned Bolt at the finish.

“I'm aware of the talent that Bolt brings to the track and I'll be more cautious than I have fear,” said Gatlin, who took gold at the 2004 Athens Games and bronze eight years later in London. “I know what it takes, focus-wise, to be able to say, ‘I know what I need to do to be on top.'“

Gatlin won't run the 100 at the US championships next month in Eugene, Oregon. No reason to — being the reigning 100-meter champion of the Diamond League, he has an automatic bye into the event at worlds. That allows him to dabble in the 200, which he won at the 2005 world championships.

“I'd like to go out there and experience what it's like to double again,” said Gatlin, a former University of Tennessee standout who trains in Florida. “I haven't doubled in a long time.

“But that's going to be a lot of running.”
Fast running, too.

After all, Gatlin thinks the world record in the 100 could fall in Beijing, especially with Bolt returning to form. It's a lightning-quick track Bolt knows intimately well after breaking the record inside the Bird's Nest during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In Germany a year later, Bolt toppled the world mark again, lowering the record to where it currently stands at 9.58 seconds. — AP


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