Joy for Gatlin, Lagat but Merritt fails in brave bid for Rio

Justin Gatlin, who earlier took the 100m, held off a fast-finishing LaShawn Merritt to win the 200m in 19.75 seconds.
Justin Gatlin, who earlier took the 100m, held off a fast-finishing LaShawn Merritt to win the 200m in 19.75 seconds. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

EUGENE (Oregon) • Justin Gatlin powered to victory in the 200 metres at the United States Olympic trials on Saturday and 41-year-old Bernard Lagat made his fifth Olympic team.

However, hurdler Aries Merritt's fairy-tale comeback from a kidney transplant ended in disappointment.

Allyson Felix also kept her hopes of a rare 200m and 400m Olympic double alive by advancing to the women's 200m final.

World Championships silver medallist Gatlin, remembering a narrow loss to Usain Bolt in last year's Beijing 100m final, held off the charging LaShawn Merritt to win the 200m final in 19.75 seconds.

"About 40-50 metres to go, I started seeing LaShawn's legs coming," Gatlin said.

FALLING JUST SHORT

It's hard not to go back to Rio. But in the circumstances, I did the best I could. It's a pity I'm not going to the Games because I know in six weeks' time, I'll be in much better shape.

ARIES MERRITT, US hurdler, on missing out on qualifying for the Rio Olympics after coming back to competition following a kidney transplant in September.

"I just had a flashback of Beijing all over again. I was like, 'Oh no!'

"I just kept my poise and dived for the line and I just kept running as hard as I could."

Merritt clocked 19.79sec, as both the sprinters qualified for Rio in a second event. Merritt earlier won the 400m and Gatlin the 100m.

Kenya-born Lagat pulled to the front on the final straight to claim the 5,000m in 13min 35.50sec.

"I train with young guys and I don't believe I am old," he said.

"If you believe you are old, I am going to run like an old man."

Lagat had represented Kenya for his first two Olympic teams and now will be going for a third Games with the US.

Reigning Olympic hurdles champion Aries Merritt, who underwent a kidney transplant in September, receiving an organ from his sister, missed the Rio team by a hundredth of a second as he came fourth in the final.

Only the top three finishers qualify for the Olympics in the cut-throat US trials.

"I thought I had finished second or third," said the 30-year-old, who was leading with two hurdles to go.

Officials re-read the finish photo but did not change the results.

"It's hard not to go back to Rio. But in the circumstances, I did the best I could. It's a pity I'm not going to the Games because I know in six weeks' time, I'll be in much better shape," he added.

Elsewhere, Felix, not happy with her curve running, clocked the third-best 200m semi-final time of 22.57sec to advance to yesterday's final.

"I was not as sharp as I would like to be but I am moving on," said Felix, who has been slowed by a sprained ankle in April.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2016, with the headline 'Joy for Gatlin, Lagat but Merritt fails in brave bid for Rio'. Print Edition | Subscribe