:slight_smile: By Gene Cherry

RALEIGH, North Carolina, July 4 - These are the days Justin Gatlin has dreamed about since turning professional nearly three years ago.

A double sprint victory in the U.S. championships in hand, the Athens Olympic 100 metres champion begins his European run-up to August’s world championships this week confident and ready to meet the challenge of new 100 metres world record holder Asafa Powell.

“I feel like I am back in my zone like I was in college, doubling and hopefully dominating the field as well,” Gatlin said after becoming the first male in 20 years to win the 100 and 200 metres at the same U.S. championships.

“Any championship that I come to, I want to do that, and make sure that Justin Gatlin’s name is known throughout all the sprints,” Gatlin added.

He had mixed success in that goal in Athens, collecting a variety of medals – gold in the 100, silver in the 4x100 metres relay and bronze in the 200 metres.

The task will not be easier in Helsinki’s world championships, especially with Powell running the 100 metres so well.

“I can’t concentrate too much on him,” the 23-year-old Gatlin said of the Jamaican, who clocked 9.77 seconds on June 14 to erase American Tim Montgomery’s 2002 record of 9.78 seconds.

“I know he is the guy to gun for,” Gatlin added, but “anybody (can) come up at the end and try and nip you.”


He will prepare for Friday’s showdown with Powell in Rome by running a 100 metres in Lausanne on Tuesday in a field that provisionally includes training partner Shawn Crawford, countryman Leonard Scott and Olympic silver medallist Francis Obikwelu.

Meetings with Powell also are on tap for London on July 22 and most likely Stockholm on July 26.

Both men have strived for an edge in the build-up to Rome.

Gatlin nipped Powell in their only meeting this year, at the June 4 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, where both clocked a wind-assisted 9.84 seconds. He wondered aloud at the U.S. championships about Powell’s staying power in a meeting with rounds and elite competition.

While praising Powell for “a very great race” in his world record run, Gatlin questioned, “Can he do it in a race where Maurice Greene, Justin Gatlin and Shawn Crawford are in the same race?”

Powell, clearly the dominant 100 metres runner this season with a string of sub-10 second clockings, downplayed any rivalry with Gatlin.

“I don’t think it’s going to be that exciting,” he told Sports Illustrated.


Gatlin begged to differ.

“Coming into the season I have had a spark, (an) inspiration in my life to go out there and not just try to squeak by and win the championship, but to go out there and be competitive in all my races,” he said.

The inspiration, Gatlin said, came from those who doubted his ability to win last year’s Olympics.

“They thought I had a chance,” he said, "but they never thought I was going to win.

“I think that kind of put a wake-up call in my mind to go out there and like, ‘Hey, why is everybody doubting me?’” Gatlin said.

“I’ve done things time and time again to show everybody I can be a worthy opponent and a champion,” he added.

“If that means I have to go out there and win every race I can, then that’s what I am going to do.”