Athletics: Bolt makes relay debut to set up season against Gatlin

AFP , Monday 4 May 2015

Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt of Jamaica (Photo: Reuters)

While the eyes of the sporting world were fixed on boxing's much-touted "fight of the century" in Las Vegas, the two fastest men on the planet renewed a rivalry which bodes for an electrifying season on the track.

Six-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt and American arch-rival Justin Gatlin took to the blue track of the Thomas A.Robinson stadium in the capital of the Bahamas just as the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao title bout got under way.

The comparison was not lost on either athlete as Gatlin helped the US quartet to the 4x100m crown in the second edition of the IAAF World Relays, Bolt unable to snag American anchor Ryan Bailey in the run-in for the line.

"I think it's going to be a good rivalry - like Pacquiao and Mayweather," said Gatlin, against whom Bolt says he has no problem competing after the American 2004 Olympic 100m gold medallist saw out his four-year ban for doping.

"I think that's what the track fans want to see this year and I want to help bring that."

Gatlin, 33, dominated the 2014 season with career-best and world-leading times in the 100 and 200m of 9.77 and 19.68sec respectively.

Bolt, however, was forced to sit out most of last season with injuries, but says he seems to be coming back into the form required to defend his sprint titles at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing in August.

"We just need to get back to the shape we are used to," Bolt said after finishing second to the United States in the shortest relay.

"We have three months and at the World Championships that's where it really matters."

Indeed, Bolt has anchored Jamaica to two Olympic and three world titles in the 4x100m and said the victory of the US quartet, also featuring Tyson Gay - a sprinter Bolt said shouldn't even be running after his doping ban was halved for "cooperation", "makes it more exciting going into the world championships".

"I'm not totally surprised. We're not in the best shape as a team, and personally I know I'm not in the best form that I can be. I have three months to work on that," Bolt said.

"But I came here to run so that's the best... I take every loss as a learning curve."

On an individual level, Gatlin was adamant that he was the "man to beat right now".

"I hope I can hold that good form and take another gold medal for myself at the World Championships," said the American, who won the sprint double at the Helsinki worlds in 2005 just before his doping ban and rebounded to claim world 100m silver in Moscow in 2013, a year after a bronze at the London Olympics.

On the back of the Gatlin-headed victory, the United States dominated the World Relays, winning seven of the 10 events raced, boding well for a successful world champs in Beijing.

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