Gatlin welcomes new challenges - McLeod, Parchment, VCB set for Shanghai showdown
Despite disappointment at last year’s World Championships and the return to form of several key rivals, American speedster Justin Gatlin says he is still the man best equipped to take down Jamaican hotshot Usain Bolt at this Summer ’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Gatlin arrived at his press conference ahead of tomorrow morning’s Shanghai Diamond League sporting a T-shirt emblazoned with an ominous pair of wolf eyes and told The Gleaner a few minutes later that he is on the hunt this season and that he is approaching the year with a fresh perspective.
The former Olympic and World champion dominated much of the 2015 season and arrived in Beijing for the World Championships without a single defeat, but lost both the 100m and 200m gold medals to Bolt.
With a less impressive start this time around following a 10.02 win in his only wind-legal race so far — much slower than the 9.74 he registered in his Doha opener last season and considering the return to form of the likes of Yohan Blake and emergence of Trayvon Bromell, Gatlin remains convinced he will be Bolt’s biggest threat in 2016.
“I live for these moments,” said Gatlin, who is targeting a season best here.
“I always love competition, and last year, I trained for seasons like this, where people are going to be at the top of their game. I’m glad that everyone is coming back into form, even Walter Dix himself ran a very good time in Doha, so to see that happen, I think it’s going to be a star-studded race, a starstudded event (in Rio), and hopefully, big things will happen,” Gatlin said.
“The plan is to be as strong as possible and strike at the right moment. Last year was almost like I trained like Mike Tyson; I came out the corner swinging hard and tried to knock everything down as soon as possible. This year I’m more like Floyd Mayweather, I am going to go the distance and try to get through all the rounds,” he added. “Last year was a tough pill to swallow, but it grew me as a person and as an athlete. I try to take a little bit of psychology from different sports, and when you train for like MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), cage fighters will tell you its going to be my time or I’m going to get knocked down, but I’m going to get back up.”
He’ll get his shot at Bolt, but for now he will have to pay attention to another Jamaican, Julian Forte, who will line up alongside the American here with world leader (9.91) Femi Ogunode (Qatar), American pair Mike Rodgers and Isiah Young, as well as Kittitian Kim Collins also commanding lanes.
The Jamaican interest will also be strong in the women’s 400m with four athletes from the island down to compete in Novlene Williams-Mills, Stephenie-Ann McPherson, Christine Day, and World Champs bronze medal winner Shericka Jackson. Bahamian Shaunae Miller, the fastest woman in the world this year with a 49.69 clocking, is widely expected to have her way here, with Americans Natasha Hastings and Ashley Spencer also notables.
With Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s late withdrawal from the 200m due to a persistent toe injury, Veronica Campbell-Brown should have an easier run to the finish line. Anneisha McLaughlin will be looking to improve on her 22.78, with Murielle Ahoure (Ivory Coast) set to get her 200m campaign under way.
The race of the meet will, however, be the 110m hurdles with Jamaican pair Omar McLeod and Hansle Parchment renewing their rivalry with a field that includes world record holder Aries Merritt along with global medallist David Oliver, and Jason Richardson.
With this much firepower as is always the case in the 110m hurdles anyway, we could see the season’s first sub-13-second clocking, which in itself is a rare feat in May.
McLeod, who leads the world with a 13.05 mark, got the better of Parchment (13.10) in Doha, but will again have to be at his best if he is to continue his unbeaten stretch which now stands at nine races for the season. Only the Jamaicans have gone faster than Cuba-born Orlando Ortega (13.12), who now competes under the Spanish flag, and he too, will have something to say tomorrow. World Champs bronze medallist and national record holder O’Dayne Richards will get his season started in the shot put, where he will face world champion Joe Kovacs (USA) with Ryan Whiting (USA), Tom Walsh (New Zealand), Christian Cantwell (USA) some of the other big names down to compete.
Schedule for Jamaicans
Shot put men (4:51 a.m.)
Men’s 100m (6:25 a.m.)
Women’s 400m (6:35 a.m.)
Women’s 200m (7:11 a.m.)
Men’s 110m Hurdles (7:44 a.m.)
Men's 4x100m relay (7:54 a.m.)