Gatlin, the cynosure of all eyes
Web posted at: 5/12/2006 2:29:32
Source ::: The Peninsula
US athletes Justin Gatlin (left), Bershawn Jackson (centre), and Allyson Felix display their mementos during a press conference, on the eve of the Qatar IAAF World Super Tour 2006, in Doha, yesterday.
DOHA • There is an air of expectancy among all. Will he or won’t he is the big question as the one-day Qatar IAAF World Super Tour kicks off at the Qatar Sports Club today. The man under the spotlight is none other than America’s Olympic and world champion Justin Gatlin.
It’s just that the race to find the world’s fastest which has created attention around this man. He made his intentions of breaking the world record and becoming the fastest man on earth. Having set the pace in Osaka with a blistering 100-metre dash gold medal at 9.95 seconds, Gatlin’s moment of reckoning could be here in Doha.
With more than 150 athletes among 20 of whom have world records to their names, 18 Qatar athletes in the fray, the event is an opportunity for all to excel. But the cynosure of all eyes will be the 100m scheduled for 8 pm.
“I’ve the Olympic gold and the world championship gold, but I want to add the world record to my name. It (world record) can happen here in Doha on Friday or it can happen anywhere else, but I tell you, I will do it before the year is out,” Gatlin had said on Wednesday after a training session.
The world mark stands in the name of Asafa Powell, the Jamaican who clocked 9.77 to make the world record his own, last June in Athens. But now, Gatlin wants to own that record within this year.
“I truly believe I can break the world record this year and why not do it here?” said Gatlin. “This is a fast track and judging on how I feel and the way I ran in Japan the record could well be on.”
When Gatlin ran at 9.95 in Osaka last week, world record holder Powell did not lag behind the American, snatching the race in 9.95 at his home in Jamaica, the same day at a different event. So the race is on between these two. However, Powell has given this event the skip and the duo are only slated to lock horns on June 11, at IAAF World Athletics Tour Grand Prix meet in Gateshead, London.
The 24-year-old Gatlin has a chance here to go past the Jamaican. But looking back at history, he has not won in Doha in his previous two attempts. But things can change. Will he be third time lucky? Two years back, it was Gatlin’s training partner Shawn Crawford who took the honours in 9.86 seconds. And last year, it was Francis Obikwelu, the Nigerian-born Portuguese who spoilt Gatlin’s party with 10.05 seconds.
However, Gatlin feels he can change it this time around. “I will break the jinx this year. Hopefully this time I’ll win,” Gatlin said yesterday.
Today too Gatlin will have to contend with the competition of Crawford and Obikwelu as both of them feature in the 15-member entry list.
Reflecting on his performance in Japan, Gatlin believed that he could build on the good start he got in Osaka. “Japan (Osaka) was a great start for me. Hopefully I can build on from there. I set the tone and hope I do it right here too.”
Among other leading lights in action, world 400 metres hurdles champion Bershawn Jackson of US started off the season with 47.60 in Osaka last week, but right behind him came a Greek record of 47.82 from Periklis Iakovakis. The battle lines will be drawn again here for the duo.
Jackson said that he intended to go at least 46 by the end of this year. “I started off with 47 in Osaka. My goal for this year is to achieve at least 46. This is my main focus and I will try to be consistent,” he said yesterday.
In the men’s 3,000 metres battle, it will be a toss up between three Kenyans and is expected to be close. The trio of Eliud Kipchoge, Augustine Choge and Ben Limo will slug it out. The world 5,000m champion Kipchoge, will take on recently-crowned Commonwealth 5,000m champion Augustine Choge and reigning world champion, the experienced Benjamin Limo.
In the women’s 100 metres, Gatlin’s female compatriot Allyson Felix, who won the women’s 100m title at the IAAF Japan Grand Prix in a time of 11.11 seconds, will again be in action here. She is also competing in the 200 metres.
Russia’s Olympic long jump champion Tatyana Lebedeva had set the meet record here in Doha last year. She faces India’s Anju Bobby George, who did not have the best of times in the last year and in Commonwealth Games earlier this year.
There is also Australia’s Bronwyn Thompson and Romania’s Alina Militaru. Bronwyn Thompson finished second with 6.70 m in Osaka last week.
Anju is hoping for the best after a dismal performance in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. She did a jump of 6.54m in Melbourne but on her arrival here she expressed confidence of bettering that mark.