International Athletics

Gatlin hopes Bolt is enthused

2015-06-05 10:34
Justin Gatlin (AFP)

Rome - American Justin Gatlin is hoping yet another strong performance will "enthuse" Jamaican rival Usain Bolt as the pair head towards a world championships showdown.

At the Rome leg of the Diamond League on Thursday the American powered home unchallenged in a time of 9.75sec to snatch the track record from Bolt, who clocked 9.76 on his way to victory in 2012.

Given the scrutiny surrounding Gatlin, a former dope cheat who served a four-year ban from 2006-2010, it was the highlight of a meet that nevertheless saw Croatian high jumper Blanka Vlasic cap her return to competition with a promising second place behind Spain's Ruth Beitia.

Elsewhere, France's Renaud Lavillenie failed on three attempts to clear 6.01m in the men's pole vault, settling for victory after clearing 5.91.

The men's triple jump was notable for a Cuban podium sweep although Pablo Pedro Pichardo, who leapt a world leading 18.08m, took the win with an attempt of 17.96.

Compatriots Alexis Copello and Ernesto Reve completed the podium with attempts of 17.15 and 16.89 respectively.

Gatlin, meanwhile, continued to impress as he looks ahead to challenging Bolt for his world championship crown in Beijing in August.

Declaring he has "nothing to prove to anybody, really" when questioned about recent reactions to his fast times in the past year, the American said he hoped Bolt was taking note of his performances.

"If the roles were switched... I'd be more enthused by such a great competitor coming up and making me want to be sharper again," Gatlin said.

"I watch his races too, I'm a fan. I love to see him run. He's poetry in motion when he runs. His confidence that he uses on the track is something that you want to see again and again."

At the London Olympics Bolt stormed to the title in 9.63se, with Gatlin finishing third in 9.79 behind Jamaican Yohan Blake (9.75) to take the bronze.

A year later at the world championships in Moscow, Gatlin clocked only 9.85 but it was enough for silver behind Bolt, who took the title in 9.77.

With Bolt keeping his appearances few and far between so far this season, Gatlin has the momentum and is gaining confidence.

At a recent Diamond League meet in Eugene, he was seen gesturing to fans after his win but denied he was "calling out" Bolt.

"Not at all! I was talking to the fans, saying 'I'm here, I'm running good and regardless of what you feel about me I'm here to put on a show'," said Gatlin, who said he would be first to shake Bolt's hand in the event of defeat.

"One thing that I do have in common with Usain is that we're both competitors. He beat all the great guys to get where he's at. He's went through and beat them handily," he added.

"If I lose a race, I lose with dignity and I win with dignity and I shake everyone's hands. He's the same kind of guy."

Gatlin, however, said he did "not understand" why his performances are raising eyebrows.

"I think people are more flustered, should I say, that I'm running fast, not that I'm back. I was back four years ago, literally, in 2010," he said.

"I'm running fast again... I got my confidence back. I know who I am again and I feel great about it."

Vlasic is also looking towards excelling at the worlds, and after squeezing onto the podium with a jump of 1.97 -- having taken three attempts to clear 1.94 - she was feeling buoyed enough to perform a funky dance for the crowd.

But she admitted knee and Achilles problems have left her with plenty of work to do for Beijing.

"I'm happy with my first competition because I had a lot of problems this spring with my knee and my Achilles," she said. "Today I came and saw what I need to do if I'm to reach the bigger heights.

"But I think there's enough time this summer. Beijing is still far away so I will definitely continue with my season if everything goes well. But I will need some hard training, because this is what I'm missing."

Read more on:    justin gatlin  |  usain bolt  |  athletics

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