SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - After years of being Usain Bolt’s main rival, Justin Gatlin wants one more race with the Jamaican world record holder and for a special reason.
Bolt is retiring after his final 100 metres at August’s world championships in London and Gatlin, who is competing in the U.S. trials this weekend, hopes to be in the race.
“It’s a part of history,” said the American Olympic 100m silver medallist.
One that will be both fun and sad.
“It’s going to be a changing of an era,” Gatlin told Reuters. “We are going to be looking at a person who came along and made his mark and who has not only excited the crowds but he has made history over and over.”
Although he has beaten Bolt only once, Gatlin said the race would also be fun.
“I always wanted to battle with the guys with the records,” the American said.
“When I came back into the sport, my goal was to be...I said to myself ‘I just want to be shoulder to shoulder with him’,” Gatlin told reporters at the U.S. nationals/world trials.
The 2004 Olympic champion, Gatlin was ineligible for the 2008 Beijing Games while serving a four-year doping ban.
He watched from a restaurant as Bolt wiped out world records in the 100 and 200 metres.
“It was just total respect for how fast he is, the competition he brings,” the 35-year-old Gatlin said.
Since then, with Gatlin returning from his ban in 2010, they have raced nine times at 100 metres with a 2013 Diamond League win in Rome Gatlin’s only victory.
While Bolt was racking up world and Olympic gold medals, Gatlin won bronze at the 2012 London Olympics followed by silver at the 2013 and 2015 world championships and at last year’s Rio Games.
This season has been a struggle with various injuries, but Gatlin said it would be pleasing to be back at worlds in London.
“It would be the toughest year for me,” the 2005 world champion said. “But it would be an honour to get through and show the fortitude that I have.”
While London will be the last race for the 30-year-old Bolt, Gatlin, more than four years older, hopes to continue running.
“That’s the fun part,” he told Reuters.
“Now that void that Usain will leave will open the door for others to step up and be competitive. That’s going to be exciting.”
Editing by Ed Osmond