Could Justin Gatlin be the 'Bolt' From the Blue?

Updated: 25 August 2015 09:16 IST

Usain Bolt beat rival Justin Gatlin to win the gold at World Athletics in Beijing. The difference in time between the two, however, was a minute fraction of a second.

Could Justin Gatlin be the
Jamaica's Usain Bolt, USA's Tyson Gay and USA's Justin Gatlin compete in the final of the men's 100 metres athletics event at the 2015 IAAF World Championships. © AFP

It was dubbed as the battle of Good vs Evil, and Usain Bolt winning at the World Athletics Championship would have us believe that 'good' guys don't always finish last.

Only, on Sunday, the good guy almost lost.

Justin Gatlin was beaten to the post by Bolt by the smallest of margins, a mere one hundredth of a second. Interestingly, Bolt's winning time of 9.79 seconds in the finals was a shade slower than Gatlin's semi-final time of 9.77; those that saw that semi-final would concede that Gatlin could have gone a few micro-seconds quicker had he not purposely slowed down in the final 10 meters, content at just making the finals.

Though experts warn that comparing timings of different races, run at different times, under different conditions, isn't the best way to judge a sprinter; after all, minor fluctuations in wind speed or temperature is known to affect an athletes performance; the gold standard to determine the quicker man on track still remains a mano e mano battle; and on that count, Usain Bolt remains the fastest man on the planet.

That said, it is tough to ignore the performances Gatlin has been churning out in the last year or so: before his defeat to Bolt on Sunday, the American was on a 28 race unbeaten run; and it could very well have been 29 wins on the trot had Gatlin not tightened up in the dying stages of the race in Beijing; his eagerness- that probably stemmed from his nervousness- resulted in the 33 year old faltering in his strides in the last 30 meters of the race.

"Really, I gave it away, I stumbled in the last five metres, my arms got a little flaily", is how Gatlin summed up his imperfect race.

Of course, the fact that Gatlin was unusually slow off the blocks didn't help his timing too.  

But more than his words, Gatlin's reaction after the race delivered an even more important message: his beaming smile seemed to suggest that the burly American was more than happy finishing second behind Bolt. For a man labelled as 'evil', 'dark' and 'bad' by the press ahead of the race, perhaps just winning a medal was a huge burden off his chest.

But whilst the tainted American athlete froze under the intense media pressure on Sunday, he may not repeat that again; and on the evidence of what one saw of him at the bird's nest stadium, Gatlin is frighteningly close to beating Bolt in his pet event- the 100 meters dash: an unimaginable idea just a couple of years ago.

Mark your Calender: August 14, 2016; and if you see Justin Gatlin breaking the finishing tape in Rio, ahead of arguably the greatest athlete of the 21 century, don't rub your eyes in disbelief.

Amongst the various labels attached to Gatlin in the last week, the only one which mayn't be unfair to the man would be a 'drug cheat'. But, the fact remains: you can doubt him, you can't dismiss him.

For the time being, it's time to celebrate the win, not the timings.

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