The Golden Gala Diamond League event was hyped as the first major 100 metres race of the season with Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt both featuring on the start line. It may have only been Bolt’s second race, and he may stillbe recovering from injury, but Gatlin’s victory – by a 0.01 margin – wasanother impressive performance for the American who has started the 2013 seasonextremely brightly.
Gatlin has now won three 100 metre races in Diamond League competition this season. He ran 9.97 seconds in Doha, Qatar and then 9.88 in Oregon, USA last weekend.
His form has looked good and he appears to have regained a lot of the power from his prime in the period when he won the 2004 Athens Olympics 100 metres. That was the height of Gatlin’s career before he was hit with a four-year ban following a positive drugs test.
The 31-year old made a significant comeback at last summer’s London 2012 Olympics running an impressive 9.79 seconds to win the Bronze medal behind Jamaicans Bolt and Yohan Blake. Several people are already tipping Gatlin as a significant challenger to Bolt in the World Championships in Moscow this August.
Gatlin doesn’t have the raw speed to seriously challengeBolt or even Blake in terms of pure performance. However, he has always shown the sort of tough character and clutch performance to race at his very best in the big events. This makes him a serious threat to Bolt and Blake.
Gatlin will also know that at the age of 31, his opportunities to win another title or even more medals are growing slimmer. The form and fitness he has shown this season could be a sign that 2013 is the best shot he has at competing at a major championship.
Bolt’s camp won’t and shouldn’t be too alarmed. The 26-year old is still clearly building himself up after an early season hamstring injury. It looked like a sprinter in very early season form. The fact that he only lost by 0.01 seconds despite the relative race practice that he and Gatlin have had should be encouraging.
It feels like just about everyone is waiting for the six-time Olympic champion to fall off of his pedestal. Many felt it had happened mentally when Bolt was disqualified at the 2011 South Korea World Championships. However, last year’s Olympics showed that Bolt shouldn’t be under-estimated and that he has enough raw ability to dominate the global sprinting stage for as long as his body holds out and he remains willing.
Gatlin has mounted the early season challenge and his running impressively. Maybe that’s the inspiration that Bolt needs. Whatever happens, the competition is great news for Athletics fans.