Gatlin guns for a place in world championships history
Only Carl Lewis, Maurice Greene and Usain Bolt have defended a 100 metres title at the world championships. Should Justin Gatlin fight off a whoosh of other arrows on Saturday in Doha, he will eclipse the triumvirate by becoming the most decorated sprinter in the event with five medals.
Gatlin, who was suspended between 2006 and 2010 for taking banned substances, was anointed the oldest world champion two years ago at the age of 35 years and 176 days. The victory came 12 years after his first world championship gold in Helsinki.
And the high was sweet at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium in east London. The American – booed and jeered by the spectators because of his drugs tainted past - finally beat Bolt, the man who had pushed him into silver at the 2013 and 2015 world championships. The Jamaican had also outpaced him to win the 100 metres at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
In his first round heat on Friday night at the Khalifa International Stadium, Gatlin looked spry and made light of the hot and humid conditions. “I train in Florida so I'm used to this,” he quipped. “This feels just like at home.”
Christian Coleman from the United States won his heat in 9.98 seconds to underline his claim for supremacy. Yohan Blake also looked impressive as the Jamaican takes over the male medal hopes from his illustrious compatriot and seeks a second 100 metres gold to join the bauble from Daegu in 2011.
“I didn't execute as I wanted to,” said the 29-year-old after clocking 10.07 seconds in heat four to qualify for the semi-final.
That will be held at 1845 and the final will follow three and a half hours later.
After that explosion of testosterone, attention will switch to Doha's waterfront and the finals of the men's and women's 50km walk.
Yohann Diniz, who won the men's title in 2017 in just over three and a half hours, has hit out at the organisers for relocating the event outside the air-conditioned stadium and along Al Corniche.
"They have placed us in a furnace,” railed the 41-year-old Frenchman. “They are making us guinea pigs."
The women's marathon started on the waterfront just before midnight on Friday in attempt to minimise the effects of the heat and humidity on the contenders.
Even still 28 of the 68 runners dropped out as Kenya's Ruth Chepngetich prevailed in two hours and 32 minutes.
Gatlin's gun for glory will come in a comparative blink.