Despite volatility, Justin Gatlin remains focused on Usain Bolt: ‘My job is to push him’
Within a matter of days this month, Justin Gatlin had an Olympic relay silver medal stripped, shattered his personal-best mark in the 100 metres and missed a meet in Beijing over a misunderstanding.
His reaction to each was rather straightforward: He’ll chase after more medals.
No real time for ruminating, as Gatlin’s focus is strictly on closing the gap with Usain Bolt, who’s getting stronger – and healthier – by the day with the Beijing world championships just three months away.
Gatlin certainly made the clash all the more enticing when he finished in 9.74 seconds on May 15 in the sweltering heat of Doha. Only four sprinters have ever run faster, including Bolt, who lowered the world record to 9.58 in 2009.
That’s not all: Gatlin’s hoping to give the Jamaican standout a run for his crown in the 200m, too.
“My job is to push him to be one of the greatest sprinters – and go out and beat him,” said the 33-year-old Gatlin, who will race in the 200m at the Prefontaine Classic this weekend in Eugene, Oregon. “It’s always been like that.”
This has been quite a roller-coaster spring for Gatlin.
That silver medal he earned as part of the 4x100m relay team at the 2012 London Games? Well, he will soon have to retrieve it from his parents so he can give it back as a result of Tyson Gay’s doping case. The International Olympic Committee recently notified the US Olympic Committee that the relay team were disqualified and those medals should be returned.
Gay handed over his medal last year after accepting a one-year doping suspension and the loss of results going back to July 2012.
Under international rules, an entire team can be disqualified and stripped of medals because of doping by one member. The other US team members losing medals include Trell Kimmons, Ryan Bailey, Jeff Demps and Darvis Patton. Kimmons, Gatlin and Bailey ran in the final with Gay as they finished behind the Bolt-led Jamaicans.
Gatlin hasn’t received official word yet to return his medal, but said: “We have to do what we have to do.”
Before doing so, though, Gatlin said he will confer with his teammates.
“We won it together. So we have to figure out what we’re going to do together,” said Gatlin, who returned to track in 2010 following a four-year ban for testing positive for excessive testosterone. “I can’t jump the gun to say what’s going to happen.
“Everybody is focused on their season, getting ready for worlds. Everyone is trying to get more medals, instead of worrying about the medals that may be lost.”
A few days after news concerning the Olympic relay medals broke, Gatlin blazed to his best-ever time in the 100m, lowering the mark he had last September by 0.03 seconds. His performance certainly caught the attention of Bolt, who recently pointed out that fast times were, of course, good for track. Even more so when it’s by someone not named Bolt.
“I live for challenges. I live for championships,” said Bolt, who won the 200m at the Golden Spike meet in the Czech Republic on Tuesday. “That’s my focus.”
Oh, and finally last week, Gatlin found himself at the centre of a squabble over a miscommunication he had with meet organisers in Beijing. Fresh off his blistering time in Doha, Gatlin traveled to China for a race at the Bird’s Nest.
Soon after his arrival, though, the muscles in his legs began to cramp. He said he told meet organisers they may want to consider having another sprinter on stand-by just in case he couldn’t compete.
“They took it the wrong way,” explained Gatlin, who has an automatic spot for worlds in the 100m as the reigning Diamond League champion and will only compete in the 200m at US championships next month. “They were thinking I was going to pull out or that I wasn’t going to run or only half-way compete, and then expect to get paid an appearance fee. That’s not the kind of person I am.
“But everything is all good. There was nothing disrespectful, and everything is on the up and up.”
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Updated: May 27, 2015 04:00 AM