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