Gatlin builds up for Bolt challenge

Justin Gatlin rounding the bend in the lead during the 200m heats in the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. He is gearing up to challenge Usain Bolt in the World Championships.
Justin Gatlin rounding the bend in the lead during the 200m heats in the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. He is gearing up to challenge Usain Bolt in the World Championships.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

EUGENE (Oregon) - Justin Gatlin stayed on course for a sprint double World Championships challenge on Saturday, while Allyson Felix has a choice to make after a storming 400 metres triumph at the United States athletics championships.

Gatlin, a polarising figure who has served two doping bans, clocked a seemingly effortless 19.92sec to cruise into the 200m semi-finals.

The 33-year-old won his heat ahead of training partner Isiah Young (19.99).

Dedric Dukes had the third-fastest time with 20.15,

"I felt comfortable," said Gatlin, who opted out of the 100m won by Tyson Gay on Friday because his 2014 Diamond League title gives him a World Championships wild card in that event.

"Take it easy, rest right now and get ready for the battle tomorrow," he said of his mindset for the heats, with semi-finals and the final set for yesterday.

Gatlin, who has the top times in the world this year in the 100m (9.74) and 200m (19.68), has made no bones about his desire to challenge Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt in both events at the Aug 22-30 World Championships in Beijing.

But Felix, the Olympic 200m champion who has a wild card into the Beijing 200m, says the World Championships schedule will not let her attempt a 200m-400m double as she did in 2011.

She ran down Natasha Hastings (50.25) in the final 100m to win the 400m in 50.19 on Saturday.

With the 200m semi-finals and 400m final at Beijing scheduled just 70 minutes apart, Felix will opt for one or the other, a decision that will ultimately rest with coach Bobby Kersee.

In Kingston, Jamaica, Omar McLeod clocked a world-leading 12.97sec to capture the men's 110m hurdles at the Jamaican national trials on Saturday.

The 21-year-old shattered his personal-best 13.21 by 0.24sec to take the season-best time from France's Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (13.06).

Olympic bronze medallist Hansle Parchment was second in 13.08 while Commonwealth Games champion Andrew Riley was third in 13.25.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2015, with the headline 'Gatlin builds up for Bolt challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe