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Athletics
Gatlin sparkles in Doha
American sprinter is firmly on the comeback trail at the Diamond League in Doha beating Asafa Powell to win 100m.
Last Modified: 11 May 2012 19:02
London calling: 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin signals his comeback from a four-year doping ban pipping Jamaican Asafa Powell at the post [REUTERS]

American Justin Gatlin took another huge step to sprinting redemption by pipping Asafa Powell by a head at the line to win the 100m in 9.87sec at the opening meeting of the Diamond League in Doha on Friday.

Powell, Jamaica's former world record-holder, got off to a flying start but Gatlin stuck with him and came through at the end, even looking left across the Jamaican at his time on the board as he crossed the line.

"You've got to take track and field as a soap opera with spikes on," Gatlin said of his return to the circuit and mixed welcome back from fans and pundits.

"Everybody wants to see great competition. They've watched the Usain Bolt show for a couple of years, they want to see someone else in the mix and I'm happy to step up and be in the mix as well.

"I want everyone to know Justin Gatlin is back and I want the Olympic title.

"The Jamaicans have got their team together well, so we have to do that as well. But the US has always had good racers, we have Tyson Gay, Walter Dix and me. I'm back!"

Comeback

The result was another massive tonic for Gatlin, who is making a comeback after a four-year doping ban and in March won the world indoor 60m title.

The 2004 Olympic 100m gold medallist has a great record of competing in Doha, where he memorably equalled Powell's then-world record of 9.77sec in a Grand Prix meeting in 2006.

The record was later rescinded after his doping violation came to light, but the American insisted he had no bitter-sweet thoughts.

His memories were of "very pleasant, warm emotions", the 30-year-old Brooklyn native said. "The night I broke the record was a magical night."

For Powell, however, it was another disappointing finish to a race he looked to have in the bag, only to lose out by one-hundredth of a second.

"I had jetlag, I felt very tired at the end," said Powell, a world-class sprinter who has achieved a lot but has failed to deliver on the world and Olympic stage.

Gatlin said the motivation for his victory had come from his son Jace's second birthday.

"I wanted to go out there and win for him," he said. "I felt a little sluggish in the beginning but I had to psyche myself up, went against great competition with Nesta (Carter) and Asafa.

"Seeing their races and how they perform, I know I can run to the line and I made sure I had a good win."

Gatlin added: "This is the fastest I've ever opened up my whole career. It shows I have a lot of grit and a lot of competition still left in these old legs. I just want to come back and run with the best of them.

"I got kind of long at the end. There's a lot of things I can work on."

Staying focused

Gatlin refused to get too carried away with thoughts of this summer's London Olympics.

"Races like these show who's a competitor and who's just a runner. I like coming out here and competing. Even if Asafa is better than me in the middle phase, I'm going to come back some time at the end and get him. "

- Justin Gatlin

"This is just one step, it's a very important step for me to go out there thinking of the podium in London. I'm ready for it and staying focused," he said.

"Races like these show who's a competitor and who's just a runner. I like coming out here and competing. Even if Asafa is better than me in the middle phase, I'm going to come back some time at the end and get him."

Jamaican sprint star Bolt was absent from the meet, having preferred to make his season debut on home soil last weekend - with a world lead of 9.82sec over the 100m - and his European bow in Ostrava, Czech Republic, later this month.

World 100m champion Yohan Blake, also of Jamaica, opened his season with a 9.84sec time, but Gatlin said his performance here was worth more.

"They were at home while I'm far away from home. I've proved I can run very well anywhere," he said.

Leroy Clarke of Jamaica equalled his personal best of 9.99sec in finishing third, while Carter finished fifth (10.05) behind American Michael Rodgers (10.00).

Source:
AFP
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