Athletics: Gatlin withdraws from showdown with Powell

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The Independent Online

Justin Gatlin has withdrawn from an eagerly awaited meeting with his fellow 100 metres world record holder, Asafa Powell, at Crystal Palace on 28 July, because of a leg injury.

The news will be greeted with dismay within British athletics, given that the American also pulled out of a 100m against Powell at Gateshead last month. His Jamaican rival subsequently equalled the time both men had previously run: 9.77sec.

On that occasion Gatlin's action was prompted by his agent, the former world high hurdles record holder Renaldo Nehemiah, with the athlete claiming that the meeting was too early in the season and would be too cold.

This time Gatlin's absence is due to an injury to his calf, which he said had become swollen and slightly strained after he defended his US title in Indianapolis four weeks ago. He dropped out of the Athens meeting on 3 July and last Tuesday's Lausanne grand prix. Gatlin last raced against Powell a year ago at Crystal Palace, Gatlin winning after Powell injured himself at the start.

After Gatlin equalled Powell's record in May, and shortly before he pulled out of Gateshead, his agent said he did not want the duo to meet too many times, in order to maintain interest.

"I've been going to all my meets," Powell said. "I'm ready to run against him. I cannot tell you where and when I'm going to meet him on the track - it seems he's avoiding me."

With no major championships this season, it could be that the world will have to wait until next year to see the two race again.

"We have worked extremely hard to bring Gatlin and Powell together at the Norwich Union London Grand Prix but clearly, in top-level professional sport when athletes are running at their physical limits, injuries can occur," said Jon Ridgeon of UK Athletics. "The meeting will still be one of the most impressive staged anywhere in the world this year. We hope Asafa Powell can replicate the performance he produced at Gateshead and perhaps go even a little faster."

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