BEIJING – Justin Gatlin clocked 9.83secs in the opening round of the 100m heats to show world champion Usain Bolt the threat he carries ahead of Sunday’s showpiece final in Beijing.
With a tailwind of 2.1 m/s, Gatlin won the sixth heat with Jamaica’s Bolt advancing by winning heat seven courtesy of a 9.96 time that he seemed to run in second gear.
It’s already been dubbed a ‘battle for the soul of athletics’. While that’s a touch extreme – the sport has serious questions to answer regardless of whether the Jamaican or American national anthem rings out in China – many would view a Gatlin triumph as catastrophic.
Gatlin, who has served two drugs bans, came out on the offensive this week. Justin Gatlin the form horse but don’t write off Usain Bolt - Maurice Greene “No-one is trying to take over the world. No-one is trying to blow up the world,” he declared.
True, but he has contributed to the shroud of suspicion which has engulfed the sport and remains wholly unapologetic for his transgressions.
The 33-year-old is the favourite for both 100m and 200m glory, unbeaten since 2013 and the fastest in the world this year over both sprints.
However, Bolt’s successive 9.87-second dashes in London over the shorter distance pulled him within 13 hundredths of Gatlin in 2015 – keeping Sunday’s showpiece final wide open.