Love him or loathe him, Justin Gatlin refuses to be bowed and his times seem to be getting faster as the athletes begin their countdown to the World #Athletics Championship. He was back in action at the weekend at the US Championships in Oregon, focussing his efforts on the 200m to good effect as he recorded a sensational 19.57 seconds in taking first place. That rocketed him up to fifth place on the all-time list and improved the world's leading time this season. It was a performance that marked him down as the clear favourite for Beijing with even a triple gold being well within his reach there.
Consistent through the rounds
Gatlin was clearly determined to lay down a marker to his would be challengers this summer, as he posted sub-20 seconds clockings in all three rounds at Hayward Field. A nippy heat time of 19.92 seconds was backed up with a 19.90 seconds clocking in the semi-finals. Saving the best for last, the 33-year-old powered his way to victory in the final, aided by a slight tailwind.
Bolt struggling for quick times
While the larger than life Usain Bolt from Jamaica continues to struggle to post quick times this season, with a 20.13 seconds time in Ostrava being his best time in 2015 so far, his American rival seems to grow in stature and dominance. Bolt may even struggle to get a place on the medal rostrum judging by the times of Isiah Young (19.93) and Wallace Spearmon (20.10) who trailed in behind Gatlin, claiming second and third, respectively.
Short sprint mastery
Gatlin can also claim the top 100m time of the year so far in addition (9.74 seconds), providing the distinct possibility of a prestigious sprint double in Beijing in August. His record since 2013 in the 100m is perfect, with 20 consecutive victories. With the Americans seemingly destined to go head to head with the Jamaicans in the 4x100m relay as well, Gatlin may well return home with three gold medals.
Bolt is still talking as though he has no concerns about the threat from Gatlin, yet he will need to improve his times significantly over the coming weeks to bring his own challenge back on line. With his world record for the 200m being an incredible 19.19 seconds, he still has the ability to pose a threat to his controversial rival. He also holds the 100m record at 9.58 seconds. Bolt may hope that he will peak at just the right time and that the American is running too quickly too soon. For now though that doesn't seem to be the case.
Gatlin did not need to compete in the 100m at the American Championships in order to qualify for Beijing in that event. As the reigning Diamond League Champion over the distance, he will receive an automatic place in the starting list.