Gatlin takes 100 at track and field worlds

Posted: Monday, August 08, 2005

 

  Justin Gatlin of the US, left, crosses line ahead of second placed Michael Frater of Jamaica, to win the gold medal in the Men's 100 meters at the World Athletics Championships in Helsinki, Sunday Aug. 7, 2005. AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

Justin Gatlin of the US, left, crosses line ahead of second placed Michael Frater of Jamaica, to win the gold medal in the Men's 100 meters at the World Athletics Championships in Helsinki, Sunday Aug. 7, 2005.

AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

HELSINKI, Finland — Justin Gatlin didn't just win the 100 meters at the world track and field championships, he dominated it like no other sprinter in the meet's history.

The 23-year-old Olympic champion bolted away from the overmatched competition Sunday night to win in 9.88 seconds, 17-hundredths of a second ahead of runner-up Michael Frater of Jamaica. The margin of victory was the largest in the 10 world championships that have been held since the meet's inception in 1983.

''I think it really stakes the claim that I'm the champion,'' Gatlin said. ''I run like a champion. I show up big when it's time to show up big.''

The race unfolded under a pink and blue sky at sunset, with virtually no wind, in front of a near-capacity crowd in the 40,000-seat Olympic Stadium.

Gatlin got off to his usual slow start, but let out a yell halfway through.

''I was like 'Yeah!''' he said. ''I knew it was over. I had it. I knew that my stride length was unmatchable at that time.''

Then he burst through the field in a blur.

The previous largest margin of victory belonged to Carl Lewis — 15-hundredths of a second — at the second world championships in 1987 in Rome. Ben Johnson originally won that race but was later stripped of his title for doping.

Gatlin kneeled in prayer after his victory, then was handed a U.S. flag, which he held for cameras with what has become a trademark big smile from the rising superstar of the sport. The Finnish fans cheered him on.

''That's my job, to go out there and put on a great show,'' he said, ''and show respect to all the countries.''

Gatlin's chief rival, world record holder Asafa Powell, watched from the stands and could only wonder what would have happened had he been in the race.

''I am quite confident in my ability,'' said Powell, who withdrew with a groin injury. ''I'm sure I would have run real fast. I never doubt myself, so it would have been a good race out there.''

Gatlin, who beat Powell in the Athens Olympic final and at the Prefontaine meet in June, said he would have loved to have gone against the Jamaican.

''I think the race would have been faster,'' he said. ''I think the world record would have been threatened if he was there, and I still think I would have beat him.''

Powell said he hoped to face Gatlin before the season ends, possibly in Zurich.

The Jamaican waited in the mixed zone to give a big hug to his best friend Frater, who wept over his surprising second-place finish. Defending champion Kim Collins, who barely made the finals, was third. Frater and Collins both were timed in 10.05.

Maurice Greene, three-time world 100 champion and 2000 Olympic gold medalist, also had to watch after pulling up with a hamstring injury at the U.S. championships. Greene plans to run in the 400-meter relay next weekend.

U.S. coach John Smith praised Gatlin's ability to rise to the occasion.

''He reminds me of how Maurice did that. Carl Lewis did that,'' Smith said. ''They step up when the pressure's on the line.''

Gatlin isn't finished. He will compete in the 200, and anchor the 400-meter relay team.

Earlier, the heptathlon and men's discus ended in high drama.

Carolina Kluft, the 22-year-old Swede who is among Europe's most recognizable and popular track athletes, overtook Eunice Barber of France down the stretch in the 800 to win her 13th consecutive heptathlon. Kluft, who was bothered by a sore left ankle — especially in the high jump — won with 6,887 points. Barber, who led much of the competition, was second with 6,824.

Kluft's unbeaten streak dates to 2001 and includes a world championship in 2003 and an Olympic gold last year in Athens.

Two-time Olympic champion Virgilijus Alekna of Lithuania defended his world discus title, winning on the final throw of the competition with a meet-record 230 feet, 2 inches.

Gerd Kanter of Estonia was second at 224-11.

Two Americans accustomed to better days failed to make it to the finals. Stacy Dragila, the 34-year-old pioneer of the women's pole vault, cleared 14 feet, 5 1/4 inches on her third and final try but it wasn't enough to advance. Shawn Crawford, out of condition after a foot injury stalled his training, was last in his 100-meter semifinal heat in 10.28 seconds.

''My confidence this year has been in the dumps,'' Dragila said. ''Today obviously wasn't a good day.''

Crawford had a run-in with the starter before his heat, arguing over whether both feet had to be touching the pads in the starting blocks while he was in the ''mark'' position. He said he was forced to start in an unfamiliar way as a result, and that may have led to his poor race.

The meet's first world record was broken when Olympiada Ivanova of Russia won the 20-kilometer walk in 1:25:41. After maneuvering around the course through the streets of the city, Ivanova was handed a Russian flag as she entered Olympic Stadium.

She wasn't sure she had crossed the finish line and continued for another half-lap before someone told her to stop.

Jamaica's Trecia Smith won the women's triple jump in a personal best 49-7. Yargelis Savigne of Cuba was second at 48-7 1/2. Defending champion Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia pulled out of the final because of an Achilles' tendon injury. She had struggled to qualify 10th out of the 12 finalists.



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