Los Angeles - It remains to be seen whether a legitimate 100 metre challenger to Usain Bolt will emerge from the US Olympics trials as injuries and mediocre results have hampered the men's sprint team this season.
Former Athens Olympic gold medalist Justin Gatlin has yet to break 9.90 in a wind legal race this season after a barnstorming 2015, when he won silver at the Beijing World Championships. Trayvon Bromell, who picked up the bronze in Beijing, is a question mark due to an Achilles injury.
Gatlin, 34, said on Wednesday that his slow start is part of a bigger plan.
"I basically have to run two championships in one year, so I wanted to start slower this year so I can prepare myself for that," he said in Eugene, Oregon, where he is getting ready to compete in the trials beginning on Friday.
Sprinters Tyson Gay, Marvin Bracy and Mike Rodgers also have a chance at reaching Rio as the top three finishers in each event qualify for the Brazil Games, August 5-21.
The controversial Gatlin remains unapologetic after serving two doping bans that have some officials and athletes questioning how the American is still allowed to compete in light of the added scrutiny directed at Russian athletes because of suspicions about that country's anti-doping program.
Gatlin has never admitted to doping, saying that a 2006 failed test was the result of a massage therapist's rubbing testosterone cream on his legs. He also tested positive in 2001 for an amphetamine. He served a four-year ban, returning to the scene in 2010.
Alexander Zhukov, Russia's Olympic committee president, took a swipe at Gatlin and Gay during a recent Olympic summit in Switzerland, questioning the fairness of letting them compete in Rio de Janeiro while some Russian athletes who have never tested positive might not.
Like Gatlin, former world champion Gay was suspended for doping in 2013.
More than 100 athletes will qualify for the Rio Games by the end of the US trials on July 10. The American track and field team is traditionally the biggest by size across all sports.
In 2012, the USA topped the medal table with nine gold among 28 total medals.
LED MEDAL STANDINGS
The US also led the medal standings at the Beijing Worlds with 18, but Jamaica and Kenya grabbed more golds.
"The US trials are going to be a dogfight," Gatlin said earlier this month.
Allyson Felix says it is more difficult to compete at the trials than the Olympic Games themselves because the American program is so strong.
"A lot of times you do feel like it's this bigger thing than even the Olympic Games," she said.
Felix is aiming for a 200-400 metre double in Rio, but her preparation has been complicated by an ankle injury this season.
She is the defending 200m Olympic champion, but didn't run the distance at the Worlds to focus on the 400m.
When she hits the blocks for the 200m in Eugene, it will be the first time she has run the distance this season because of the injury.
"I don't feel more prepared for one or the other," she said. "I want to go out there and give it my all and hope to get one of those three spots."