“The adversity is the measurement of a true man.” – Justin Gatlin
Eight years removed from Athens Olympic glory, a resilient and resurgent Justin Gatlin has again returned to the Olympic podium in 2012 in under ten seconds.
Referring to the nine seconds that once again returned American Justin Gatlin to the Men’s 100m Olympic podium in 2012 as “world-stopping,” the previously banned sprinter states, “I feel honored to be a part of making history and stop the world for nine seconds … [Usain] Bolt to my right, [Yohan] Blake to my left,” adding, “he’s glad to be in the mix of things and out there running.”
In 2004 Gatlin captured Olympic 100-meter gold in 9.85 then personal best seconds at the Athens Summer Games. In Gatlin’s suspension-induced absence from the sport, the result of an April 2006 positive test for testosterone, the former University of Tennessee Volunteer witnessed the emergence of and ascension to the top of the sprint throne by the aforementioned world record holding Jamaican sprinters Bolt and Blake.
“I think a lot of people wrote me off along time ago,” estimates Gatlin adding of the doubts, “it just gave me a lot of drive to push through everything I been through,” who equally credits his supportive teammates, friends and family as contributing to the bronze medal, podium restoring push.
Anyone familiar with Gatlin’s ‘pre-race, stoned-face, aggressive pace’ preceding his block entry cannot argue he ran “a man apart” with a steadfast determination for victory. “When I’m on the track, that’s my game face … I only have nine seconds to prove that I’m one of the best sprinters,” expressed Gatlin quick to make it clear that off the track he is an approachable, “real cool guy.”
To be specific, the approachable Gatlin’s 9.79 now personal best 100-meter seconds, still a sprint-eternity behind Bolt’s 2012 gold medal winning Olympic Record time of 9.63, proved him to be the third best sprinter in the world on Sunday, August 5. “I gave everything out there, all the way coming to the finish line,” said Gatlin describing the .01 seconds of time that separated himself and compatriot Tyson Gay’s fourth place finish as “less than the snap of a finger.”
Prior to winning the U.S. Olympic Trials 100-meter event in June in 9.80 seconds, Gatlin was notably absent from all NBC London Olympic spots with CNBC Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell raising the question if he still retained a reservoir of marketability.
Of the lack of pre-trials marketing, which would have been warranted with the Brooklyn native again securing the World Indoor 60-meter Championship title in Istanbul back in March and executing three sub-10 second 100-meter performances leading up to the trials, an agreeable Gatlin surmised, “I think that people wanted to sit back and spectate and see exactly where I was coming from [after] making the World Team last year [and] not even getting out of the semi-finals.”
With a fair deal of the commercial spotlight preceding the Games consumed by Adidas sprinter Tyson Gay prominently featured in Gillette and Omega Watches television advertisements, who himself prolonged the start of his season due to recovery for hip surgery running only one race prior to the U.S. Trials, Gatlin contends his focus resided in wanting, “to show the world I can be dominate again and I can definitely run with the big boys.”
Gay was the American ‘big-boy’ who emerged to fill the void resulting from Gatlin’s 2006 doping suspension as the Lexington, KY native would win the ensuing 2007 World Championship 100 and 200 meter gold medals and subsequently establish the 100-meter American Record at 9.69 seconds on September 20, 2009 in Shanghai, China, the country of location for the apparel manufacturer Xtep who signed Gatlin in the latter portion of 2011 that is thrilled with their athlete’s .01 second margin of victory which bested Gay’s 9.80 Olympic 100-meter final performance rendering him fourth and giving the Quanzhou, Fujian based company’s Track & Field Division it’s first Olympic medal.
“I feel honored to be their first track and field athlete and to be their ambassador for running,” expressed Gatlin, noting an affinity for the company’s “crazy, cutting edge concepts,” revealing the source of the objects he sprints across in his Xtep anti-vibration themed commercial to be washing machines!
Fairly new to the sprint world, Gatlin explains Xtep rapidly assembled a spike modeled from the width and length of his foot for the London Games revealing, “I was putting super-glue on the bottom of the spike trying to hold the plate to the upper,” adding that next year the full process of constructing a new spike from scratch will commence in January.
So while there may have been some ‘flaws’ in his spike, Gatlin is more concerned with flaws in his 100-meter race explaining himself “not to be upset” when he crossed the finish line but rather wanting, “a better strategy.”
“Me and my coach, we worked on [a plan] to attack from 40m to 60m,” revealed Gatlin assessing his actual race execution as instead attacking, “from the gun and I moved and I was out front from about 40m to 50m, and everyone was there; and they moved from 50m to 70m.” Hence, Gatlin now believes to “compete against guys like Bolt and Blake,” the key will be to, “model a better race pattern and move from 50m to 70m,” hoping to yield a better effort and faster time.
And of the Glen Mills trained Jamaican sprint duo who along with fellow countrymen Nesta Carter and Michael Frater, bettered their own 4x100m relay world record from 37.04 to 36.84 seconds Gatlin offered, “that’s a one-two combo that’s going to be really deadly,” referring to the on-the-curve exchange from Yohan Blake to relay anchor Usain Bolt.
The American relay team comprised of Trell Kimmons, Tyson Gay, Ryan Bailey and Gatlin, coached by Jon Drummond, equaled the former world record of 37.04 thereby establishing a new national record and eliminating the past short comings of recent baton-drop and exchange zone laden mishaps resulting in race disqualification.
“What we did different from other past relays is that we used camaraderie,” stated Gatlin explaining ‘camaraderie’ to mean a week in Monaco where, “we sat down, we had pow-wows, we had meetings; we also just had relay practice … trying different orders [determining] who has good chemistry where … in the time that we had.”
And of the resulting Kimmons to Gatlin to Gay to Bailey relay order that would ultimately win the Olympic Silver medal placing second to Jamaica, Gatlin believed it to be, “a safe order, a good order [that] showed a lot of dominance.”
Further discussion of relay strategy, Gatlin describes himself to be “a little startled” by the excitement, intensity and energy that Kimmons brings to the track as maintaining the Kimmons to Gatlin exchange tandem, “was definitely part of the plan.”
Understanding the second half of the relay to be the exchange from Gay to Bailey on anchor, Gatlin explains the team went into relay camp knowing, “we have to give him a good cushion,” hoping that each leg could add a meter and give the team, “at least four meters to work with going into that home stretch.”
Gatlin admits that breaking the American record in the prelims gave him the confidence that the team could win and at least make American history, if not indeed world history, “because they didn’t have the fire power that was needed to run with us in that point in time, definitely from first to second; and we just had to make sure we had great handoffs from third going into fourth and second going into third as well.”
Ultimately, Jamaica would prove too powerful to overcome as they in fact bettered their own world history by two-tenths of a second running a time of 36.84 seconds, which Gatlin maintains is achievable by an American relay team noting the absence of an injured Walter Dix and hoping to add, “another thoroughbred to help contribute to the cause,” of a new world record or gold medal believing, “everything we saw last year 2012 is just a prelude to what we can do in 2013.”
And as the ember particles emitted from the moving 204 “petals,” each individually encrusted with the names of the competing countries, evaporated into the dark heights of the London skies well above Olympic Stadium, one immutable fact remains concerning what we saw of Gatlin in 2012. Across the individual Olympic 100, 200, 400 and 800 meter men’s sprint distance events, Brooklyn born, Pensacola, Florida raised, not without transgression, American Justin Gatlin is the only U.S. man to stand on the Olympic Podium in 2012 and bring home a bronze medal for Team USA, the country he represents.
“Not taking anything away from my teammates; we went out there; we knew was going to battle,” humbly responded Gatlin to this fact furthering even more reason for the country to support its athletes explaining, “We know it’s going to be harder and harder each Olympics … so we have to definitely be on our A game.”
And now Jamaica runs the men’s sprint game and again, in 2013, Gatlin will seek to battle and “lock horns” at the 14th World Championships in Moscow, Russia which he says is of equal importance to him as this past Olympic year. “I want to see what I can do next year with a stronger base and a smarter strategy going into both races, and I think that I am going to go out there and run a couple of 200s,” anticipated the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist.
“Everything I’ve done before my four years was God given talent,” demonstratively stated Gatlin preparing, “to show the world all the stuff that I did in 2000 was just echoing for what I did from 2003 all the way to 2006; so I’m just excited to see what I can do in 2013 and 2014 going into the next Olympics in Rio.”