EUGENE, Oregon USA June 25th – Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay served notice they will be ready to challenge Usain Bolt at the London Olympics in the 100 meters after qualifying for the Games with impressive times.
Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion who could not defend his crown in Beijing while serving a four-year doping ban, won the 100 final at the US Olympic Track and Field Trials in 9.80 seconds, the third-best time in the world this year.
“I think there’s a lot left in the tank,” Gatlin warned. “I was pleased with my time and the effort I left on the track.”
Gatlin, who won the world 60m indoor crown earlier this year, lowered his own season best from the 9.87 he ran to win last month in Doha and served notice he was aiming at reigning Olympic champion and world record-holder Bolt.
“I don’t think I would come back to a sport where I’m OK getting second or third,” Gatlin said.
Bolt owns the year’s best two 100s, having gone 9.76 to win at Rome last month and 9.79 to win on June 7 at Oslo, and his Jamaican compatriots Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell were also ahead of Gatlin on the 2012 list until Sunday.
“We all have our eyes on that prize we want to get at the end,” Gatlin said. “If there are three Jamaicans we have to get out of the way, that will be our goal.”
Gatlin, banished for much of Bolt’s rise to stardom, said he was ready for any mind games or Bolt’s trademark archery-styled theatrics at the start line.
“I love entertainment,” Gatlin said. “If he wants to tap dance, that’s fine. His lane is as long as my lane. I have to worry about me. If that gets him in ‘the zone’, that’s fine, let him do that.”
Gay, the former world champion who underwent hip surgery last year and missed nearly all of the past 12 months, was second in 9.86 with Ryan Bailey third in 9.93 for the last London berth.
Gay’s time ranks seventh on this year’s world list and puts him fifth among performers behind Bolt, Gatlin, Blake and Powell.
“I’m just going to continue to take care of my body and stay healthy. That is the big thing,” Gay said. “A lot of these guys are already sharp and running great times. I believe it’s going to be tough (in London).
“I’m just going to go fight them.”
Walter Dix, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist and 2011 world runner-up, was eighth in the final in 10.95 after straining a left leg muscle in the earlier semi-finals, an injury that could hinder his hopes in next week’s 200.
“I don’t think it’s that bad,” Dix said. “I’ve got a couple days to recover. We will see.”
Former world champion Sanya Richards-Ross, aiming for a 200-400 double at London, secured the first part of her bid by winning the 400 meters in 49.28.
The Jamaican-born sprint star, who became a US citizen in 2002, lowered her own 2012 world-best time by .11 of a second with a time that was the fastest in the world since 2009.
Reigning 400m Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt, who served a 21-month doping ban but won a legal fight for his chance to compete at London, qualified to defend his crown by winning in 44.12 seconds, lowering his own 2012 world best.
Jeremy Wariner, the 2004 Olympic champion and 2008 Olympic runner-up, did not qualify in the 400, finishing sixth in 45.24 and glumly walked past reporters without comment.
Former world champion Reese Hoffa heaved the shot put 22.00m, the longest distance achieved in the world this year, to win his specialty with reigning world indoor champion Ryan Whiting next at 21.66, his best effort of the year.
Former world champion and 2008 Olympic runner-up Christian Cantwell was third in 21.28 to book his trip to London, all three favorites advancing a day after former world champion Adam Nelson failed to escape qualifying.
Reigning Olympic champion Stephanie Brown Trafton won the women’s discus with a throw of 65.18m while Jenn Suhr, a 2008 Olympic runner-up, cleared 4.60m to win the women’s pole vault.
Marquise Goodwin, the 2008 world junior champion, won the long jump with a leap of 8.33 meters.