By Robert Taylor, Special to TrackAlerts.Com
The 2014 season was dominated by Justin Gatlin. Usain Bolt’s season was cut short because of injury; Yohan Blake was out because of consecutive seasons of injuries, Asafa Powell too, because of issues with the Jamaica anti-doping body (JADCO) and corrective measures done by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) and Tyson Gay’s unforgettable season, after coming off suspension. With the absence of the four who could challenge, Gatlin’s rule of the season like a runaway train? No one was in his class.
Now we are seeing the continuation in 2015 and waiting to see how the others respond.
With a season opener of 9.74, many are in awe of Gatlin’s performance. It is the fastest opener for any sprinter in history. As a matter of fact it is the fastest time he has ever run. Some wonder where he found this fountain of youth with his age, which now stands at 33. Whatever one’s view is, there is no doubt that Justin Gatlin is a talented sprinter. Love him or hate him, Gatlin has created a buzz in track & field. Some see this as great for the sport because of the competition, possibilities and expectation this has created. There are some who feel Bolt is having it too easy and needs someone to light a fire or create a concern that will motivate him to run close to or above his world record levels.
The current dominance of Gatlin has created consternation in some, fear in others and of course, hope in some circles. Jamaican fans have become accustomed to seeing Bolt as the gold medal standard. The USA fans on the other hand, have not seen anything resembling the dominance they once had for years. The last time they saw gold in the male short sprints was the year 2007 when Tyson Gay won the (Osaka WC) sprint treble (100m, 200m and 4x100m relay). With the injury and shortened 2014 season of Bolt, some are having fear that Gatlin might win the marquee event of athletics (100m.) in Beijing this Summer The USA fans are hanging their hopes on Gatlin and that 9.74 is the main reason.
The season is early and if we are to observe and put things in context, it might not be as bad or as good as it seems. Gatlin has always run fast in early season and able to maintain it throughout, without massive improvements. It is not impossible, but based on his history and age, it is unlikely he will run in the 9.6 range, as some are prone to postulate, based on how early he ran the 9.74. After running the 9.74 Gatlin was complaining about dehydration and cramps. This led to his being denied taking part in the Beijing World Challenge Meet. This could mean Gatlin’s body might not be strong enough to go much faster without injury. I hope not.
Regardless of what Gatlin does, Bolt’s history points towards his best performances, coming in championship finals. It is great for fans to see their athlete win but it is even better when great times are run. For me, 9.58 and 19.19 almost seem distant. A repeat or better times would be wonderful for Track & Field.
Looking on what has taken place so far in the season, many are patiently waiting to see what time Bolt run in his next race. What time he runs and the way he looks running it, will surely bring hope for one group or the other. It will relax the tension so many Jamaican fans are feeling or it will raise the expectation of USA fans hoping for an end to the eight year drought. Whatever one thinks, believes or hopes, Justin Gatlin 9.74 has raised the profile of the sport.
Love him, like him or hate him, he brings something to Track & Field. Whatever view one has, it is up for debate. What is not debatable is the fact he has created a stir, many have not seen for a while. The question to be answered is how his opponents will respond but foremost on the mind, is how Usain Bolt will respond.
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author (Robert Taylor) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, trackalerts.com.