Gatlin, Schippers close in on targets

Usain Bolt (far left) shakes hands with Justin Gatlin after winning the 200m final at the World Championships in Beijing. The Jamaican once again proved that he can be counted on to deliver on big occasions.
Usain Bolt (left) shakes hands with Justin Gatlin after winning the 200m final at the World Championships in Beijing. The Jamaican once again proved that he can be counted on to deliver on big occasions.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS • US sprinter Justin Gatlin believes he is steadily gaining on Olympic and world champion Usain Bolt as the two head towards a likely showdown at the Rio de Janeiro Games next year.

The American was unbeaten in the 100m and 200m this year until he faced an out-of-form Bolt at the World Championships in Beijing last month. The Jamaican won both events but Gatlin insisted that his two silvers have not knocked him psychologically.

"As a runner and a competitor, you can't dwell on races behind you," he told a news conference in Brussels ahead of yesterday's final Diamond League event.

The American was running the 100m consistently in about 9.8sec last year and has pulled closer to 9.7sec in many races this year. Bolt won the 100m in Beijing in 9.79 but his world record stands at 9.58.

Gatlin admitted that he will have to improve to challenge Bolt even though he will be 34 in February.

"It's all about growth and getting better and better," added Gatlin, who has served two doping bans.

"The margin of the race is getting smaller and smaller. I just have to make sure I step my game up."

Dafne Schippers also believes she has room for improvement.

She provided one of the more memorable moments in Beijing when she smashed a 36-year-old European record to capture the 200m gold. She warned that the longstanding 200m world record held by the late Florence Griffith-Joyner could be under threat.

The Dutch sprinter clocked an electric 21.63sec for victory - only Americans Marion Jones (21.62) and Griffith-Joyner (21.34) have run the 200m faster than her.

"I'm 23. I have all the time (to break the world record)," said Schippers of the mark set in 1988.

The careers of Marita Koch, Heike Drechsler, Jones and "Flo-Jo" were plagued by doping allegations and Schippers was quick to distance herself on Thursday.

"I know I'm 100 per cent clean. What more can I say?" she asked.

She also won the heptathlon bronze at the world meet in 2013 and will likely compete in some long jump events next season.

"You have to have a little fun," she said, adding that, at next year's Olympics, the "100m and 200m will be enough".

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015, with the headline 'Gatlin, Schippers close in on targets'. Print Edition | Subscribe