Justin Gatlin: When I used to be competing, I had that means in my life

The American Olympic athlete talks about beating idol Maurice Greene to Olympic gold, duelling and enjoying mind-games with the good Usain Bolt, and bouncing again from the ignominy of two doping bans

The American Olympic athlete talks about beating idol Maurice Greene to Olympic gold, duelling and enjoying mind-games with the good Usain Bolt, and bouncing again from the ignominy of two doping bans

Even as a child in Brooklyn (New York), Justin Gatlin was quick. He might not have been conscious of profession prospects in observe and discipline, however he had all of the qualities of an athlete.

“When I used to be younger, my life was all about how excessive I may bounce, and how briskly I may run. I used to leap over hearth hydrants in Brooklyn, and I raced different children down the neighborhood streets,” Gatlin said.

“I was much, much faster than all the other kids. I would tell them to get on their bikes, and still defeat them. I knew there was something special in me, even if I did not know that track and field was an organized sport.”

The American, the brand ambassador of the TCS World 10K Bengaluru, would go on to compete and excel in official track events during his high school (Woodham High School, Florida) and college (University of Tennessee) years. His idol was two-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time World Championship winner Maurice Greene.

Gatlin would get his chance to take on Greene on the grandest stage — the 2004 Athens Olympics. Gatlin mentioned that even earning a spot in the USA team for the Olympics was a big feat. “Making it to the 2004 Olympics was a eureka moment. It is especially hard to make it to the

USA team, as we always have a terrific pool of sprinters,” Gatlin mentioned.

At the 2004 United States Olympic trials held in Sacramento, Gatlin completed second within the 100m and 200m occasions. In the 100m, Gatlin (9.92s) was edged out by Greene (9.91s).

Come Athens, the script was set to alter. Despite a sluggish begin, Gatlin took gold in a good end, with Francis Obikwelu of Portugal one hundredth behind for the silver medal, and defending champion Greene one other hundredth again for the bronze medal.

“I had footage of Greene throughout my wall. I known as myself ‘Justin Greene’. One advantageous day, I awoke on the Olympics start-line alongside the man who impressed me,” Gatlin said.

Conscious effort

He made a aware effort to not be overawed by the event — a situation that had troubled him earlier. “The first ever professional 100m race I ran against Greene was an out-of-body experience. I watched in awe as Greene went past me and won. As soon as the race got over, my agent said, ‘You are a professional athlete now. You’re here to win, not watch your idol’. My agent was right,” Gatlin said.

There would be no room for hero worship at Athens, as Gatlin ruined Greene’s bid to win a second straight 100m Olympic gold. “I was happy to carry that sprint torch passed to me by Greene,” Gatlin said.

Greene’s career began to fade from there, even as a new dominant star emerged in Usain Bolt. Bolt, who would become one of the most decorated sprinters of all time, posed a massive challenge to Gatlin and other competitors.

Gatlin and Bolt went face to face on numerous occasions, with the latter frequently emerging on top. Bolt won gold the two times they met at the Olympics (London 2012 and Rio 2016), while Gatlin collected a bronze and a silver medal.

Their rivalry was fierce, fueled by a contrasting approach to the sport, and life. Gatlin describes himself as intensely, adding that on race day, he tried to “zone in, lock in, and become a tiger”. Bolt, however, was relaxed and jocular in stress conditions.

Universal fan favourite

Superman: When young, it was all about how high Gatlin could jump and how fast he could run.

Superman: When younger, it was all about how excessive Gatlin may bounce and how briskly he may run. , Photo Credit: PTI

Bolt’s straightforward demeanor made him a common fan favourite. As Bolt’s important rival, the stern-faced Gatlin was painted because the villain.

Gatlin didn’t assist his trigger by making boastful claims on the expense of Bolt. Things bought heated when Bolt contemplated retirement earlier than Rio 2016, citing an absence of motivation and curiosity within the sport. Gatlin responded by claiming that he would carry the gold medal again to the USA and showcase it in a grand parade. There had been additionally insinuations that Bolt not had the abdomen for a combat on the observe.

This didn’t go down properly with Bolt. In the documentary ‘I’m Bolt’, the protagonist reveals that Gatlin’s feedback sparked a fireplace inside him. The Jamaican returned with a vengeance, profitable gold at Rio to develop into the primary athlete to win the 100m thrice on the Olympics.

Asked if he regretted poking the bear, Gatlin replied, “I don’t regret it at all. If Bolt were to retire, and I had kept going, people would not have seen the best of our rivalry. Our rivalry was needed for the sport and the fans. Everyone wants to see two titans at the top of their game. I was the person to restart the competitor in Bolt, because I am a competitor myself. I want to be able to compete against the best Bolt, every single time.”

As a lot as he would love his legacy to focus on his rivalry with Bolt, there’s the large problem of doping that blighted Gatlin’s profession. He served two doping bans — the primary in 2001 for testing constructive for amphetamines, and the second in 2006 for testing constructive for testosterone.

Gatlin doesn’t draw back from taking questions on his doping offenses. He even places a constructive spin on this embarrassment, stating that the time he served in suspension solely made him that rather more wanting to return as a greater athlete.

Being pressured to sit down out of the game, nevertheless, did trigger psychological turmoil.

“When I used to be competing, I had that means in my life. When I used to be suspended, I needed to query myself — ‘Who am I? Who is Justin?’ It was arduous for me to emotionally navigate via these 4 years (the second suspension). At the identical time, bodily, I yearned to be on the market on the observe. When I lastly bought previous all these miserable moments, it really lit a fireplace in me. I turned agency in my perception that I’ve to be the one that controls my very own future. I guess on myself, and that was one of the simplest ways to go,” Gatlin said.

After nearly two decades as a professional athlete, Gatlin hung up his boots earlier this year. The 40-year-old made the announcement on social media, after failing to make it to the USA track team for the Tokyo Olympics.

“After the Olympic trials, I laid in bed and cried. My whole career was centered around Olympic success. And then one day, all that was finished. Now I have to move on to a new journey,” Gatlin mentioned.

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