'I am the man'
American speedster Justin Gatlin has enjoyed a dominant two years in both sprints, but he doesn't think he's the favourite for gold at this Summer's IAAF World Championships, even if he believes he's the man to beat - now.
Gatlin ended 2014 as the fastest man in both the 100m and 200m with times of 9.77 and 19.68 and has picked up where he left off with an unbeaten start to his season and a world leading and personal best 9.74 in the 100m in Doha a couple weeks ago and 19.68 in the 200m last weekend.
Still, Gatlin is keeping his feet on the ground, knowing all too well that a certain Usain Bolt - the six-time Olympic champion and current double sprint world record holder, is not in full stride and will only be at his best when it matters at the World Championships in Beijing.
After all, with the American set to compete at today's Golden Gala IAAF Diamond League meet in Rome's Olympic Stadium, he'll remember that it was at this very meet where he last beat Bolt before going on to run in his shadow at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, where the Jamaican walked away with three gold medals.
Still, for now, the sprinter has no problem declaring who is running things in the sprints.
"I think that having the two world leads - in the 100m and 200m - has put me in a position where I can go into any race and say 'I am the man'," Gatlin said, responding to The Gleaner during a press conference ahead of the meet.
"Am I the favourite? Right now I'm just trying to focus on each race, I really can't consider myself to be the favourite going into the World Championships because there are a few months to go before that comes around. So right now, I'm just trying to stay healthy and strong," said Gatlin.
"I haven't raced him (Usain Bolt) yet, but I'm out here racing good competition around the world, but when it's time to race Usain, he will be in top form no doubt and, hopefully, when that time comes, we will be shoulder to shoulder going down the track and it will be a good race," added Gatlin, who has only beaten Bolt once in seven attempts over 100m.
The American will come up against a solid field that includes Mike Rodgers, Jimmy Vicaut, Kim Collins and Jamaican pair Nesta Carter and Andrew Fisher.