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Justin Gatlin: Greece lightning
rediff.com Sportsdesk |
August 23, 2004
From a young boy who almost gave up running to attend art school to earning the title of fastest man on the planet, Justin Gatlin has come a long way.
Eight men lined up at the start of the 100 metres final at the Athens Games on Sunday night. Only one of them would walk away with a gold medal. Gatlin, who is also the World Indoors 60 metre champion, was not among the favourites. That honour belonged to Asafa Powell, Shawn Crawford and Maurice Greene.
But the silent 22-year-old had other plans despite having problems in the run-up to the final. He got off to a perfect start and upstaged his illustrious rivals to win a classic Olympic 100 metres in a personal best time of 9.85 seconds.
Perhaps, a surprise to many, but not Gatlin.
"I want to be up there with the greats, to be the best runner in history," he had said after winning the World Indoors.
On Sunday he realized his dream.
Gatlin's run to history did not come easily. His future was in turmoil in the spring of 2002 after being handed a two-year suspension for taking a banned substance, prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder.
It was a disease he had suffered since childhood. But soon after early reinstatement, things were back on track as Gatlin decided to go professional. In 2002, he left the University of Tennessee to turn professional. Last year, he continued to earn gold medals and acclaim.
His career path is now under the watchful eye of Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery's former coach Trevor Graham.
"I'm a competitor and I'm always wanting to change things when people say things can't happen," he once said.
No one will doubt him now.
Gatlin has only one ambition: to dominate the sprints. Going the way he is, he surely will.
Justin Gatlin, our Olympian of the day.