Run Forrest, run! Justin Gatlin eyes Usain Bolt rivalry

After a sensational sprint double at the Diamond League finale, American Justin Gatlin admitted Tom Hanks` film character Forrest Gump had been an inspiration as he battled back from a four-year doping ban.

AFP| Last Updated: Sep 06, 2014, 17:17 PM IST
Run Forrest, run! Justin Gatlin eyes Usain Bolt rivalry

Brussels: After a sensational sprint double at the Diamond League finale, American Justin Gatlin admitted Tom Hanks` film character Forrest Gump had been an inspiration as he battled back from a four-year doping ban.

Gatlin rolled back the years to scorch to a rare 100-200m double on Friday and immediately stated he wanted to establish a rivalry with Jamaican star Usain Bolt, who has already called time on his season after a short-lived comeback from injury.

Belying his 32 years, Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m gold medallist and double sprint world champion in 2005 before serving a 2006-10 doping ban, first raced the 100m and won by setting a season`s fastest time of 9.77sec.

Amazingly, the American`s time matched his world record-equalling mark set in Qatar in 2006 -- later rescinded because of his doping infraction. Only four men have ever run faster: Bolt, American Tyson Gay, and Jamaican duo Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell.

Gatlin then returned to the track just an hour later and blasted to an incredible victory in the 200m in 19.71sec, just 0.03 slower than his own world leading time.

"It felt great. Me and my coach Denis Mitchell have been working this year to put together a good race pattern and I knew right from the start of the season that I could run 9.7 or even better," he said.

"We just needed favourable conditions and tonight was probably the most perfect night I`ve had all year. It was a very special night for me and my family.

"To be able to run 19.71 and 9.77 in almost an hour apart or less... we work very hard all year long, so I don`t see why not give myself to the fans.

"I wanted to test my toughness, to see what I can do under pressure."

Gatlin said Forrest Gump, the lead character of the 1993 Oscar-winning film of the same name who sets out on a three-year coast-to-coast US marathon after a spurned marriage proposal, continues to play a role in his preparations.

"One of the movies I watch before I go out and run is Forrest Gump because all he does is: when he runs he goes. I think that`s my mentality when I go out on the track: just go," he said.

"Why am I going to overthink, over analyse my race, who`s next to me, what someone`s run this year? I`m talented enough."

Gatlin insisted that his goal next season was to be a rival who pushed double world record holder Bolt.

"It`s not just one lane on the track when it comes to the 100m or any other event," he said. "As competitors we are obligated to show our best performance.

"I`m not going to lay down when Usain Bolts takes the stage and shows the world who he is.

"I definitely want to go out there and put on a good show. If he goes out there and runs one of the world`s fastest times, I want to feel like I`m pushing him to it, or I`m going to go out there and try and beat him.

"The world wants to see a good rivalry. I want to go home, work very hard and hopefully produce a good rivalry for the years to come."

Asked what time it would take to beat Bolt, who has run 9.58sec for the 100m and 19.19 for the 200m, Gatlin chuckled: "The same time I need to beat him any day, in any race.

"In a good fantasy world, if both of us are injury free and we`re lined up (in the 100m), we can take it back down to low 9.6s or faster. I think it would be a great, spectacular race.

"I have respect for Bolt, he`s a great competitor, one of the best competitors I`ve ever been up against and he knows how to show up. That keeps me on my `A` game.

"I want to be able to be one of those guys for him, so he knows he needs to bring his `A` game."

Gatlin also insisted that age was not a problem.

"In track and field a lot of people write you off as you get older," he said. "I want to be able, looking at guys like my coach and Frankie Fredericks who stood the test of time and had great races later on in their career, to model myself after them.

"When I was growing up I thought I could fly, so short story, until this day I never put a limit on me."