Athletics: Gatlin aiming to come 'blazing' into world sprint saddle

AFP , Saturday 18 Jul 2015

Justin Gatlin
Justin Gatlin from the U.S. competes in the men's 100 meters event during the Diamond League meeting in Doha, Qatar May 15, 2015 (Reuters)

Justin Gatlin heads off for three weeks of rest and recuperation knowing he is the circuit's number one sprinter and vowing to come back "blazing" for next month's world championships in Beijing.

The American, 33, is now unbeaten since August 2013 and with doubts over Jamaican Usain Bolt's fitness after a pelvic problem, Gatlin has been installed as firm favourite to star in the Chinese capital.

"The good thing is that I now have three weeks of rest at home to make sure I have the opportunity to work on my race and run faster when I come back and race in Beijing," Gatlin said.

His latest outing, over 100m at Monaco's Diamond League meet on Friday, saw Gatlin win his 27th successive sprint race in 9.78 seconds, a comfortable victor of a field that included five athletes who had clocked sub-9.8sec times.

"I wanted to get a good start and dominate," said the Orlando-based Gatlin, who has served two doping bans.

"It makes you feel really good to go out there and be able to dominate such a stellar race -- you've got a lot of good guys out there."

It was Gatlin's fourth race this season under 9.80sec as he targets teammate Tyson Gay's American record of 9.69sec, the third fastest time ever run behind Bolt.

"Hopefully the 9.7sec will be my standard and I can get some rest and run faster in Beijing," he said.

"The lucky thing now is that I can go home, study all my races of the season, see exactly where my flaws are, where I can get stronger at, get my rest for three weeks and come out blazing in Beijing."

Gatlin, at 33, is a track veteran, having been crowned 2004 Olympic 100m gold medallist and 2005 double world sprint champion before returning from a second ban (2006-10) to win the 2012 world 60m indoor title, Olympic bronze at the London Games and a world silver in Moscow a year later.

Pressure, he said, was something that came with the territory but was not a major concern.

"I don't even look at pressure, I guess pressure's just part of my nature right now," he said.

"When you line up with seven other guys shoulder-to-shoulder, all you can do is go out at the gun and run at full speed, that's pressure enough.

"I just want to go out there, tune everything out, zone in on my lane and get ready for each round."

Bolt is due to make his comeback after treatment at the July 24-25 London Diamond League meet, and Gatlin hopes his rival will be fit for the Beijing worlds.

"A lot of athletes are questioning if he'll be there in Beijing, but everyone's really holding their breath to see how he'll go in the London race," he said.

"One thing I can say about Usain is that he is a gamer, he's a showman, he'll rise to the occasion when it's time to do so. All that other stuff is not pressure for him."

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