International Athletics

Self-belief powering Gatlin to Rio

2016-07-04 19:08
getty images, justin gatlin, athletics
Justin Gatlin (Getty Images)

Eugene - Justin Gatlin is preparing to block out the background noise fuelled by his checkered past as he prepares for another assault on the Olympic 100m crown in Rio de Janeiro next month.

The 34-year-old American sprinter laid down an ominous marker at the US Olympic trials on Sunday, clocking the two fastest times for the 100 meters this year, and punching his ticket for Brazil in 9.8 seconds.

With a cloud of uncertainty hovering over the injured Usain Bolt, Gatlin's blistering performances in Eugene mean he could well arrive in Rio as the man best placed to topple the Jamaican sprint king from his throne.

That prospect will send a shudder down the spines of those in track and field who believe that Gatlin, as a twice-suspended doping offender, should not even be allowed to compete in the Olympics.

Gatlin's critics have come from near and far.

US Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montano said in March that Gatlin should be excluded from Rio.

Last month, the president of Russia's Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, addressed members of the International Olympic Committee to complain about Gatlin's participation while Russian athletes were banned.

At last year's World Championships in Beijing, meanwhile, the final of the 100m was framed by some commentators as a battle for the soul of athletics, between the sport's biggest star -- Bolt -- and the drug-tainted Gatlin.

Gatlin, who bristled at the relentless questioning of his past last year, says his self-belief will help him in Rio.

Asked how he planned to deal with the expected controversy he told AFP: "Same thing as track and field. Be consistent, it doesn't matter if it's the noise, or if no-one's paying you attention.

"You've got to be consistent and believe who you are. I've always believed who I am to this day. And when I get out of bed I've got to be Justin Gatlin and I've gotta be Justin Gatlin 100 percent.

"And I love myself, and believe in myself."

Gatlin's belief helped him post the the two fastest 100m times of 2016 on Sunday.

He clocked 9.83sec in the semi-finals before his 9.8sec in the final.

Asked how he felt about heading to Rio, 12 years after winning gold in the 100m in Athens, Gatlin replied: "I'm crying inside.

"Joy on the outside but when I crossed the finished line and went down on one knee, there was relief, I was crying inside, happy.

"This year I had a lot of knocks and bruises, ankles, quads, hamstrings, things like that but at the end of the day I'm taking each race at a time and when the competition rises I'll rise to the occasion with it."

Gatlin said his approach this season was geared towards notching victories rather than clocking fast times.

"It's not about numbers it's about letters -- and the letter is 'W'. That's what we're going for," he said.

Read more on:    olympics 2016  |  justin gatlin  |  athletics

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