GATLIN: On The Getting Of Wisdom - And Power


The Times April 13, 2006

‘We’re all here to be the best and I think he is somebody I could give my crown to’
By David Powell

JUSTIN GATLIN, the world and Olympic 100 metres champion, has said that Harry Aikines-Aryeetey reminds him of himself when he was younger and predicts that the teenaged Briton will become the fastest man on the planet.

While Gatlin’s primary goal this year is to break the world record held by Asafa Powell, he has been preparing for the season with thoughts beyond his own progression.

Risky it may be to offer advice and tuition to a potential rival, but Gatlin has grown to admire Aikines-Aryeetey so much since they met eight months ago that he has begun to think of him as part of the family. “He reminds me of myself when I was his age — young, talented, just wanting to soak up life,” Gatlin said.

Saying that he felt “like a big brother” to the world youth 100 and 200 metres champion, Gatlin added: “His future can be very bright if he is taken care of. If his support team makes the right moves, most definitely he can be the world junior record-holder and some day the world record-holder.”

Aikines-Aryeetey, 17, has two more years in the junior ranks and, although it is not inconceivable that he could make a mark at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, come London 2012 he will be 23 — the age at which Gatlin won the 2004 Olympic title in Athens. If all goes to plan for the American, he will be seeking a third Olympic 100 metres gold medal in London.

That Aikines-Aryeetey could be the man to stop him does not concern Gatlin. “He is the kind of guy I would not mind training with, watching him grow, teaching him,” he said. “Leaving out patriotism, we are all here to be the best sprinters in the world and I think that he is somebody I could hand my crown to. With his talent and personality, he can go far and be very rich.”

Gatlin, a multimillionaire, said: “Money is something that I have not talked to him about yet but I am going to before he leaves. He has to conduct himself not just as an athlete but as a businessman. You want to be appreciated and respected, not treated like a rag doll.”

As far as Gatlin can tell, Aikines-Aryeetey can finally deliver Britain its next Linford Christie. Christie was the 1992 Olympic and 1993 world champion at 100 metres before his career was blemished by a failed drugs test. Others, notably Dwain Chambers and Mark Lewis-Francis, showed the potential as teenagers to beat the world over the distance, but the former fell into disgrace by turning to chemical propulsion and the latter lost his discipline.

“The sprinters from the UK have not stepped up to the plate like Linford Christie in the past,” Gatlin said. “That is a door that Harry can walk through and he should know that already, which is amazing at 17 in a big man’s sport. He is like a man-child. All he has to do is go out there, compete with the best and think that he is the best, no matter his age.”

Gatlin has enjoyed having Aikines-Aryeetey around, likes his attitude and even admits that the benefits of them training together have not been entirely one-way. “Have I learnt anything from him?” Gatlin said. “Be youthful and humble. It is hard sometimes, when you win a lot of championships and with the accolades that you get, not to get carried away.

“But you have to stay grounded and the character that Harry has helps me stay grounded. I wish that I could see him more often.”

Aikines-Aryeetey rejected an offer from Trevor Graham, Gatlin’s coach, towards the end of last year to join their group permanently, but the Briton said that he wanted to complete his education in Britain first.

It was at the gala awards night of the IAAF in Monte Carlo last September that Gatlin sat next to AikinesAryeetey, who was there as the world governing body’s chosen “rising star”. The Olympic champion has not forgotten how the chirpy teenager was eager to learn.

“He was not afraid to ask,” Gatlin said. “A lot of sprinters, of all ages, are cocky or self-absorbed. But Harry is willing to humble himself and be in somebody’s shadow so that he can make his own shadow.”

And, echoing the hope of Graham, that Aikines- Aryeetey will join their training group eventually, Gatlin said that he looked forward to the day. In the meantime, the American’s target is the world mark of 9.77sec set by Powell last summer. “Our only goal this year is the world record,” Graham said.


Harry Aikines-Aryeetey recounts the main tips that Justin Gatlin has given him:

*When you step on to a track, even if you do not know what you’re doing, act like you own the place

**Think of yourself as a businessman. There is a thin line between people running you like a slave and you owning the joint

***Being a sprinter, everything has to be powerful. Every step in drills has to be powerful

****Go into every race like it’s your last
Enjoy it


Justin Gatlin, the world and Olympic 100 metres champion, will race at all three big UK Athletics summer meetings

June 11: Norwich Union British Grand Prix (Gateshead)

July 28: Norwich Union London Grand Prix (Crystal Palace)

August 19-20: Norwich Union International (Birmingham)

Tickets are available on 0870 4028000 or online at