Athletics: Greene fighting fit to spike Helsinki hero Gatlin's guns

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The Independent Online

The Jamaican announced yesterday that he was withdrawing from tonight's Weltklasse Golden League meeting in Zurich, where the two sprinters were scheduled to meet for the first time since Powell pulled up with a groin injury after 15 metres of their race at Crystal Palace last month.

"Asafa is getting better by the day but he said he will not be ready to run at such a high level," a spokesperson said. "He has been told he needs more rest."

The man who set the new mark of 9.77sec in June was present in Finland as a spectator and insisted that if he had been in the final he could have won it. Gatlin, unsurprisingly, thought the reverse. "I really can't talk too much about it," Gatlin said after learning Powell had pulled out. "Now I'm just hoping he can get himself fit so that we can finally meet one another."

Gatlin's evening is likely to be anything but relaxing, however, as he faces his US team-mate Maurice Greene. The former world record-holder, who failed to earn an individual run in Helsinki because of injury, is still seething with frustration having been unable to see any action in the sprint relay, where two of his team-mates dropped the baton before it could reach him.

The women's 100m positively seethes with rivalry as Lauryn Williams, the 19-year-old US sprinter with the Mickey Mouse hairstyle who took the world title last week, meets her US rival and contemporary Allyson Felix, who took gold in the World Championship 200m.

That rivalry is complicated by the presence of France's Christine Arron, who, with just three Golden League races remaining, is the only athlete apart from the Russian triple jumper Tatyana Lebedeva still in contention for a share of the $1m (£570,000) jackpot on offer to those unbeaten through the series.

Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele, who retained the 10,000m world title, will be running in Zurich for the first time. He plans to use tonight's 3,000m to warm up for an attack on his own world record in the 10,000 in Brussels next Friday.

America's Olympic 100m hurdle champion Joanna Hayes will be out to avenge her defeat by Michelle Perry after crashing at the last hurdle in Helsinki.