Justin Gatlin says sorry to Usain Bolt over 'trash-talk'

Although the 100m sprinter will not stop talking

Justin Gatlin has said sorry to Usain Bolt ahead of their eagerly-awaited first meeting of the new season in Rome on Friday night. It was an apology of sorts but it was not accompanied by any suggestion that Gatlin is ready to change his ways and stop his public pronouncements that he is the man to stop the Jamaican either in the Olympic Stadium or at the world championships in Moscow later this summer.

Gatlin has started the march to Moscow as the form man in the 100m and has not been shy of pointing that out, predicting a “dogfight” and claiming he can be “No 1”. In the build-up to last summer’s Olympics Gatlin irritated Bolt with his “trash talking” but Gatlin believes it is all part of the circus, and all for the good of the sport.

“I will try to make this answer as short as possible so I won’t ruffle his feathers any,” said Gatlin when asked whether he thought the boxing-style banter was playing to an appreciative audience. “I don’t see why not. You watch a lot of sports that have top competitors that go head-to-head and they have to talk, they have to get the crowd excited to come and see it. You see us for nine seconds and then we are off the track, we’re gone to the next meet and you see us for another nine seconds and we’re gone. I like talking about it, I like getting into the feel of it so I’m sorry Usain.”

Gatlin did the world championship double in 2005 and over the last year has run as well as his heyday prior to his four-year ban for doping in 2006. It still has not been good enough to catch Bolt, but Gatlin, beaten in his three previous head-to-heads, believes he can get his man.

“If I didn’t think so I would have gone home after the first cancelled flight,” said Gatlin, who struggled to get to Rome after two flights were cancelled. “My season has been going really good from Beijing, Shanghai, Doha and hopefully I can keep that streak going. I’m training to be the No 1 – that’s beating Bolt.”

Gatlin has run under 10sec three times already this season, with a best of 9.88 in Eugene last weekend. He is joined in Friday’s line-up by Michael Rodgers, his compatriot, and another form man this season.

“You can’t give them an inch,” said Gatlin. “Bolt is taller than me and so has a larger stride. Rodgers has a fast start.”

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