LAUSANNE, July 10- American Justin Gatlin has Usain Bolt fixed in his sights and has expressed his hope that the injured Jamaican sprint king will be healthy for next month’s world championships.
Gatlin, at the age of 33, will head to the Beijing worlds as firm favourite in both the 100 and 200m, another victory in 9.75 seconds in the shorter event on Thursday extending his unbeaten streak to 26 races since August 2013.
The American courts controversy wherever he goes given his background — he won the 2004 Olympic 100m title and was 2005 world sprint double gold medallist but then served a second doping ban from 2006-10 before returning to nail the 2012 world 60m indoor title, Olympic bronze at the London Games and a world silver in Moscow a year later.
But Gatlin shuns any talk of his distractors, saying he has served his time on the sidelines after a mistake and is now clean.
He instead concentrates on the mouth-watering thought of usurping king Bolt, who has dominated sprinting at the Olympics and world championships since his golden treble at the 2008 Beijing Games — bar one hiccup over 100m in the 2011 Daegu worlds.
“Hopefully Usain will be healthy and ready to go when the world championships come around and hopefully I’ll see him in the finals,” Gatlin said after his victory at the Diamond League meet in Lausanne.
The American, however, said Bolt would not be worrying about the form of a raft of sprinters currently racing while he undergoes treatment on a pelvic injury.
“Usain’s a great opponent, for one, and two I don’t think that he has to worry about anybody, he has to go out there and do what he does, and what he does best is go out there and win championships.
“So it’s on me to go out there and give him the best challenge possible.”
Of the current crop of sprinters, old heads are predominant, and in Lausanne it was two other 33-year-olds close on Gatlin’s heels in the shape of Jamaican Asafa Powell and American Tyson Gay, who both clocked 9.92sec.
“I don’t think it’s about beating somebody, it’s about beating everybody,” Gatlin said when asked if he visualised trumping particular opponents.
“There’s going to be six other guys besides myself and Usain on the line jockeying for position,” he said in reference to his image of the Beijing finals.
“Looking at numbers on the board, Asafa Powell is in a great position to either win it or definitely get on to the podium, so is Tyson Gay and Trayvon (Bromell) as well, so these guys are all poised to go out there and win and do a great job.”
Gatlin said his string of 26 races undefeated was his best since his college days.
“It’s now 26 victories!” he said. “I haven’t been keeping count, but it’s great and I hope to maintain that run.”