Athletics, News, sports, Stories

Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin: Contrasting styles and paths

Usain Bolt is a freak of nature.

Usain Bolt is a force of nature.

The Jamaican claimed his 11th World Championship gold in four appearances in the 4 X 100m relay in his trademarked style.

Is there a greater sprinter in the history of the sport? More dominant, bigger, cleaner?

He was expected to be given a run for his money by his resurgent American rival, Justin Gatlin.

Just one-hundredth of a second separated the two in the 100 metres.

Olympic Gold Medal athelete, Justin Gatlin, at...

Olympic Gold Medal athelete, Justin Gatlin, at the 2nd Annual Children’s Marathon in Pensacola, FL. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the 200 was all Usain. It’s his favourite event and we all saw why.

The Bird’s Nest had seen the eagle land and his name was Bolt.

He said:

“People pretty much counted me out this season. They said, ‘He’s not going to make it. That’s it for him.’ I came out and proved you can never count Usain Bolt out. I’m a champion, and I’ll show up when it matters.”

It took a runaway Segway steered by an errant cameraman to trip this phenomenon.

What will it take to beat Bolt?

You can’t catch up with him, that’s for sure.

Gatlin said:

“What will it take? It will take staying in front. That’s what it’s going to take.”

And to think that this is his worst year yet.

Gatlin was hoping for redemption for his fall from grace, having been banned for doping.

It was and it wasn’t. The better man won.

It wasn’t for lack of trying.

However, the paying public or the online denizens would not have anything of it. There was no substance behind the portrayal of Gatlin as the ‘villain’ of the showpiece.

The American had paid for his folly. And he was back to prove that he could run—clean—and win.

Bolt spoke of retiring after the Rio Olympics next year.

The newly crowned IAAF chief, Sebastian Coe, was quick to lament the announcement.

He said:

“I do sort of feel that I’m in sort of 1960s, 1970s time warp. It’s the kind of conversation that was probably taking place in boxing at that time as to what happens after Muhammad Ali retires. Well, after Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler happens. After Muhammad Ali, (Thomas) Hearns happen, Sugar Ray Leonard, (Floyd) Mayweather. It happens.Yes, what we have to concede, and what I believe is that I don’t think any athlete, any sportsman or woman since Muhammad Ali has captured the public imagination and propelled their sport as quickly and as far as Usain Bolt has. The Usain Bolts of this world will not come along on a conveyor belt . We do need to make sure people understand we have extraordinary talent, which we’ve witnessed in Beijing. We shouldn’t be concerned because we have a sport that is adorned by some of the most outrageously superhuman, talented people in any sport. Our challenge is to make sure the public know there are other athletes in out sport.”

Spare a thought for Gatlin, the vilified.

His lack of contrition is held against him as against Bolt’s lack of arrogance.

Gatlin’s agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, says:

“When people say he never apologised, I say: ‘You haven’t done your homework.’ And the IAAF, who know this, have never come out and said anything, which I am very sad about. Justin has apologised. What is he supposed to do, go to every country and say sorry?”

I have always said to Usada and Wada: ‘Come and test us, day or night’. That’s all we can do, make ourselves available and, if that’s not good enough for people, that’s just the world we live in.

In the last few years Justin has focused on getting his weight right and getting his technique on where it needed to be and starting to run more efficiently. We don’t know with certainty anyone, who hasn’t tested positive, is not doing anything. The good thing about our testing is that it does catch people. Justin Gatlin did get caught doping. That is a fact. So we do catch people and I am happy about that.”

Justin is very charming, personable and bright. But at some point you have to back away. He said: ‘I can’t be beat down by this every single day. I came here to run, this is not fun for me.’ So I told him: ‘If anyone is going to continue to talk about the past, let’s not talk to them.’”

Gatlin admits he was a drug cheat but he’s also a human being:

“Obviously I am the most criticised athlete in track and field but at the end of the day I am a runner and that’s all I can be.”

Gatlin has now gone public about his multiple apologies in the past for his mistakes.

In one of his letters addressed to IAAF’s then president, Lamine Diack, and his senior vice-president, Sergey Bubka, he wrote:

“I am sincerely remorseful and it continues to be my mission to be a positive role model mentoring to athletes to avoid the dangers and public and personal humiliation of doping. And the harm it brings to the sport of athletics.”

I have cooperated fully with the United States federal investigation to clean up our sport of track and field working towards it becoming drug free.”

Bolt may be clean but he’s hardly your typical sprinter.

He’s blessed with twitch fibres much like other sprinters but he’s also a huge man. His large strides lend him an advantage that’s hard to overcome once he hits his paces.

He’s no lumbering mountain man; he’s the biggest, fastest man on the planet.

He’s a freak of nature. And it’s more than likely that it will need another anomalous human being to break his existing records.

Is that possible? Or is it possible, even feasible, that gene therapy and its mutations are the way forward in games that require superhuman efforts to be ‘Higher, Faster, Stronger’?

Go figure.


I have been an IT professional with over 12 years professional experience. I'm an B.Sc. in Statistics, M.Sc in Computer Science (University of Mumbai) and an MBA from the Cyprus International Institute of Management. I'm also a finance student and have completed levels I and II of the CFA course. Blogging is a part-time vocation until I land a full-time position. I am also the author of three books, Those Glory Days: Cricket World Cup 2011, IPL Vignettes and Poems: An Anthology, all available on Amazon Worldwide.


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