Wed | Oct 17, 2018

Gatlin taking aim at Ja's best

Published:Saturday | April 25, 2015 | 11:12 PMGordon Williams

Sunday Gleaner Writer

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania - Justin Gatlin had possibly the best run of his career in 2014. But even after an unbeaten season, when Gatlin dominated world sprinting, the American is aware it could have been even better - if only the planet's fastest man was on the track to witness it.

It's not that Gatlin believes last year's accomplishments were tainted by the injury-induced absence of Jamaica's Usain Bolt, world record holder in both 100/200 meters and undisputed sprint boss. But, like any competitor, he understands the need to beat the boss to be the best. The Jamaican's unavailability for much of 2014 didn't give him a chance - if, indeed, he had much against a fit Bolt. To some, Gatlin's big year didn't really count. Yet the American's appetite to renew the rivalry is larger than ever.

"I think my year was a great year," Gatlin said (April 24) at the 121st Penn Relays here. "I had an undefeated season. I think if you look back, the last undefeated season was 2009 by Usain and before that it was me, in 2005. So me and him are the two guys who need to clash and when that happens it will be big."

He did what he was "supposed to do" in 2014. It proved successful. So Gatlin plans to repeat the formula, mixing and stirring a similar regimen of training and competition. But the same results are far from guaranteed now that Bolt and a host of Jamaican top tier sprinters, including Yohan Blake, are staking out track's marquee events, including the World Championships in August and next year's Olympic Games. At age 33, Gatlin's task to unseat Bolt grows more daunting. He laughed when confronted with the cruel irony he possibly "wasted" a great year in 2014.

"I just prepared myself for a season to be able to clash with Usain or Yohan at the top of their game," said Gatlin. "You know I don't want to come out half stepping. So I just used that as a blueprint going into this season and hopefully I'll have the same season."