Moscow, Russia -
Just before the start of the men's 100 meter final at the IAAF World
Championships, the heat and humidity of Moscow relented briefly, and a
heavy rain began to fall as the runners crouched in their blocks.
Justin Gatlin had to be hoping it was a sign of an equally dramatic shift
in the world of world-class sprinting. Gatlin had beaten Usain Bolt in the
100 meters earlier this summer, but to beat him again in this setting would
mean even more.
Unfortunately for Gatlin, there was a bolt of lightning - both literal and
figurative - for him at the finish line.
Coming from behind midway through the race, Bolt caught Gatlin and pulled
away by a stride at the tape, just as a real bolt of lightning lit up the
Moscow sky. The Jamaican superstar finished in a time of 9.77, with Gatlin
close behind in 9.85. Jamaica's Nesta Carter got the bronze in 9.95.
Gatlin and Bolt had the same reaction time coming out of the blocks, but
Gatlin drove powerfully over the first 30 meters to put some distance
between him and Bolt. It wasn't enough, though, as Bolt began to close the
gap and pass Gatlin by 60 meters.
But Gatlin pushed Bolt to his limit in this race. There was no pointing or
playful mugging going on here, just an all-out race to the tape.
Afterwards, Bolt gave the former Woodham High School star a lot of credit
for how he competes in the biggest meets.
"I appreciate (Gatlin) and how he competes and always gives it his best,"
Bolt said. "One thing my coach said is that Justin Gatlin always shows up
on the big occasion. He is always one to watch . . . Just to be against
great starters like Justin Gatlin and Nesta Carter helps me to focus on my
start. I know that (Gatlin) is not going to crack under pressure."
For his part, Gatlin said he was happy with his race and there was no
shame in losing to Bolt."I'm a competitor at heart and he (Bolt) is a showman but he's the best
out there. It's always an honor to compete against him and he brings the
best out in me."
Gatlin said he was struck by the sudden change in the weather before the
race."I think we saw the lightening in the (warmup) tent. I actually thought
they were going to postpone the race."
A reporter mentioned to Bolt that there was a photo of him crossing the
line as a vertical bolt of lightning lit up the sky. "Somebody told me about that, "Bolt said. I need to get that picture
right now. That's a pretty cool photo. A good laugh."
Bolt and Gatlin will both return in these championships. Bolt will run in
the 200 meters, and both Bolt and Gatlin are expected to be on the 4 x 100
relay teams for Jamaica and the U.S., respectively.