For those who have enjoyed Justin Gatlins’ running over the past few years, his fourth place in Doha DL on May 5, was, well, a quiet opener for the Olympic medalist. But, in speaking with Coach Dennis Mitchell, that slow opener is a part of the plan.
Justin Gatlin had a good opener in Doha. He did not win, like in years past, but his fourth in 2014 was pretty solid against such an august field. Akani Simbine, the fine South African sprinter, won in 9.99, with a negative 1.2 ms wind in their faces. Asafa Powell, a man who has run 97 sub 10 second 100 meters, was second. Femi Ogunode, the Qatari runner who has won Asian Games 100m and 200m was third, in 10.13, and Justin Gatlin was fourth, in 10.14. Andre De Grasse, Olympic medalist in 100m and 200 meters in Rio, had a strong start, but did not stay in the battle, finishing fifth in 10.21. Ben Meite, of the Ivory Coast, was sixth in 10.21, with Ronnie Baker, USA, in seventh in 10.24, and Kim Collins, 2003 World Champ, 2011 bronze medalist WC, in eighth in 10.33.
“We had a tough April, just some small injuries,” noted Coach Dennis Mitchell, as we exchanged pleasantries in the Doha International Airport. Airports are where you see most coaches and athletes, and their ways of relaxing are a technique all to themselves. Such is the life of the early season elite athlete. If you come to Doha, Qatar from San Francisco, it is probably twelve hours to Frankfurt, a change over, and six to eight hours to Doha.
In our conversation, Coach Mitchell made it quite clear that we will not see Justin Gatlin in the 200 meters again. “We want to see Justin run another three years, so the 200 meters just causes too much damage at this age.”
It makes a lot of sense. I recall when Justin ran the 200 meters in Monaco in 2014, he ran hard, but it was ragged around the turn. It seemed that his ankle was giving him some grief at the time.
Justin Gatlin has been racing since he was a teenager. His racing time before and after his ban has shown a man with a huge amount of resolve and determination. His fans line up to see him and take selfies and ask for autographs.
Before the US Champs, Justin Gatlin will be racing at the IAAF World Challenge on May 21 in Kawasaki, Japan. He will then race at the Pre Classic and Golden Gala in Rome.
Let’s see how Justin Gatlin races into shape in 2017.