Four years after winning bronze in the 100m sprint, Justin Gatlin was back at the Olympics and ready to face his rival, Usain Bolt. The 34-year-old Gatlin is 6’1″ tall and weighs 183 lbs. His personal best time in the 100m is 9.79 seconds, a mark he set at the 2015 IAAF Diamond League Meet in Doha, Qatar.
Gatlin is at average height for a sprinter. It’s his rival, Bolt, who is taller than most sprinters. Bolt stands at 6’5″. Former Great Britain sprinter Craig Pickering told the BBC last year that Bolt is a “freak of nature” because of his height.
“At the beginning of a race you want to take short steps in order to accelerate, but because he’s so tall he can’t do that. But then when he reaches top speed he has a massive advantage over everyone else because he’s taking far fewer steps,” Pickering said of Bolt.
However, Gatlin has beaten Bolt before. At the 2013 Diamond League Meet, the 34-year-old Gatlin beat Bolt 9.95 to 9.94 (seen below). At the 2012 London Summer Games, Bolt won the race in 9.63, setting an Olympic record. Jamaica’s Yohan Blake won silver in 9.75 and Gatlin won Bronze in 9.79. Bolt still holds the world record for the 100m, finishing in 9.58 in Berlin in 2009.
In Rio, Gatlin wasn’t able to catch Bolt. Gatlin had a lead, but finished with 9.89. Bolt won in 9.81 seconds.
Gatlin also has a gold medal in the 100m from the 2004 Athens games, running in 9.85. He also has a silver from Athens in the 4x100m relay and a bronze in the 200m from Athens. Gatlin did not compete in Beijing, due to his second doping suspension. He has been back in the sport since 2010 and is the oldest American male sprinter to make it to the Olympic Games.
“Justin is a remarkably talented athlete who clearly made a mistake at some point,” Tracy Sundlin, the head manager of Team USA’s track and field team, told the Daily Mail when asked if a medal for Gatlin would be attained. “If people saw what he is doing and the amount of effort… if they saw his heart, I think they would feel as I do.”