Sat | May 27, 2017

Bolt will lose to Gatlin at World Champs

Published:Monday | May 18, 2015 | 5:10 PMOral Tracey, Contributor
Bolt (left) and Gatlin

The 2015 World Champion-ships sprint off in the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing China in the last week of August, the same historic venue where Usain St Leo Bolt propelled himself to superstardom with his marauding record-breaking performances in the 100 metres, 200m and 4x100m sprint relay at the 2008 Olympics.

With the Bird's Nest and the Chinese people set for something of a reunion with the now king of sprinting, I am deeply worried and concerned that Bolt could lose his 100m World title on this very grand stage, with the man to do the damage being Bolt's main rival and the man who has been in imperious form over the past two years, American Justin Gatlin.

The latest catalyst for these concerns might well be Gatlin's spanking personal best 9.74 run in Doha, Qatar last weekend. That 9.74 in and of itself, however, represents a culmination of what has been a superb and consistent run of form for Gatlin, which puts Bolt in clear and present danger of losing that 100m World title.

These fears are based not just on Gatlin's form, but equally on the readiness of Bolt compared to his rival.

Gatlin is running at his best and continues to improve, while Bolt, after basically taking last season off, is far from his best and struggling to get into tip-top shape.

Gatlin's brashness and even his two failed drug tests aside, this man is not just a supremely gifted sprinter, but his resilience, his determination, self belief and the toughness of his character are all marks of a truly great competitor.

Most mere mortals would have disappeared into oblivion after two failed drug tests and four years out of the sport. But not Justin Gatlin. He has literally defied the science of chronological progression by running the fastest he has ever run at 33-year-old, manifested by his scorching personal best of 9.74 last weekend.

no fear

Most contemporary sprinters are intimidated by the mere presence of Bolt on the track. One gets the sense that Gatlin views the Jamaican Legend differently and is greatly motivated and actually believes and is confident he can beat Bolt when it matters.

Words coming from the Bolt camp are along the predictable lines that Bolt at his best cannot be beaten.

That is ever so true, but the question to be answered is how far is Bolt from his best and can he get back to his best in time for the Championships?

It has long been very puzzling to me, the fact that ever since his elevation to that elite level, there has been a tendency season after season for Bolt to have to learn the technicalities of sprinting all over again.

Every early season Bolt looks raw and rugged as a sprinter, there seems to be very little continuity from season to season. It's normally back to his notoriously poor start and then he works gradually on the execution of the rest of his race.

Gatlin by comparison was great last season and has not skipped a beat coming into this season.

Bolt seems to be always playing catch up, struggling to get ready in time. Invariably he starts off his seaso in 10.10 to 9.90 shape, then there is this frantic push to get down to 9.70 in time for the major championships, which usually is good enough to win the major titles.

Not so I suspect this season, with that beast of a competitor, Justin Gatlin, not just waiting in the wings, but preparing and believing he can steal the thunder of the current king of sprinting.

This imminent moment for the American has been two years in the making. He is way ahead of Bolt and all the indicators are pointing to a Gatlin victory over Bolt in the 100m at the upcoming World Championships, in the very same Bird's Nest Stadium where Bolt and indeed the world enjoyed some of the most memorable moments in 2008. I sincerely hope I am wrong.