Stuart Weir wrote this piece on Justin Gatlin, who added a silver medal to his list of accolades.
A reflection of Justin Gatlin
While Christian Coleman gets the headlines for his victory in 100m – and rightly so – the silver medal run of Justin Gatlin was phenomenal too. Now, of course, I know Gatlin has had two doping bans – but neither was totally straight forward. And in any case, he has served his time and is free to compete.
His career 100m success has been phenomenal. Olympic gold in 2004 (one of three medals that year), bronze in 2012 and silver in 2016. World Champion 2005 (also in the 200m) and 2017 and silvers in 2013, 2015 and now 2019. Running 9.89 he beat men like Andre de Grasse, Yohan Blake and Akani Simbine. And he is 37.
His gracious after race comment suggests he is far from finished: “Christian has had a spectacular season and I knew he’d be tough to beat. He ran a great race, but I have a message for next year – I’m coming. He’d better be ready. To get another world medal feels amazing. This season has had a lot of ups and downs. But running this time this late in the season makes me excited for next year”.
In another interview he commented: “I’ve been written off so many times. The thing I’ve learned is: believe in yourself, know who you are, your capabilities and just stay true to that. When it comes to having a medal on the line, I’m going to put together the best race possible”. And he seems to be enjoying it, telling BBC: “There are moments when I’m standing in the call room getting ready to come and I can’t believe this is happening. It’s just because I understand I’m at the end of my career”.
In Monaco I saw him beat Noah Lyles – which he clearly enjoyed, saying: “It’s all about putting together a good technical race, to use my experience. It feels great to beat these guys. This season is surreal, I can’t believe I’m still winning here after more than 20 years. Noah is a great runner, so every time I race him, I’m excited!”
London 2017 saw him booed every time he stepped on the track. Had, one wondered, many of the jeerers checked the facts and in any case why single him out among those competing who had also served a ban?
When I asked him to recall 2017, he made no mention of the crowd, recalling, rather, the “pandemonium. Crazy. The deepest, strongest fibre of confidence that I had to bring to the track. Staying in my lane, running my race and coming across the line – showing that confidence can prevail and that you have got to believe in yourself”. And, of course, the fact of beating Bolt: “I think over the years, that’s what we saw – 2013, 2015, 2016 – I think it was a predictable thing that it was going to be a shoot-out between us. But obviously the emergence of the young sprinter Christian Coleman who had taken stage in a way that he was in front distracted a lot of sprinters in the race. I just stayed focused on my own lane”.
He also spoke about the responsibility of being world champion: “Yes, being world champion feels good. But it comes with the responsibility of the need for hard work. Because I can’t come into a race now, slack and not give a good performance because people are going to recognize that”.
His approach to Doha interested me as well with the world championships being so late: “Just being patient. And that is harder for sprinters because we like to be fast and aggressive, to go out and do the best we can. But it is a long way away. I think it’s about preparing ourselves so that when the moment comes we are ready” He was ready all right.
I for one was glad to see a great athlete perform well.