PRETORIA (AFP) - World 100m champion Justin Gatlin tasted defeat on his first visit to South Africa with home sprinter Anaso Jobodwana beating him in the rarely run 150m at the Athletix Grand Prix meeting in Pretoria on Thursday (March 8).
"My coach said to focus on the first 100 metres and that is what I wanted to do to just get out there and put together a good race over the first 100m and try to work on my form over the last 50 metres," said Gatlin, who crossed the line in fourth place.
"I was supposed to open my season in May but I had to jump at the opportunity to be able to race here in South Africa and it is a special time for me.
"I still feel a bit jet-lagged because I've only been here for 48 hours so hopefully next year I can come back a bit earlier."
Gatlin, twice suspended for doping, finished in a distant fourth place clocking 15.23 seconds with Jobodwana earning an easy victory with a time of 15.08.
It was the first time the South African was able to beat the 36-year-old American in their third race against each other.
Gatlin finished ahead of Jobodwana in the 200m at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing where the American won silver in a time of 19.74 behind retired Jamaican legend Usain Bolt, who won in 19.55.
Gatlin got his revenge on Bolt in the 100m at last year's world championships in London where he spoilt the Jamaican's final curtain call.
He won his first world title in 12 years with compatriot Christian Coleman winning the silver medal, while Bolt had to be content with the bronze medal.
Earlier in the week, Gatlin said Bolt made him a better athlete despite their fierce rivalry over the last few years.
"Racing against Usain has made me become a better athlete and better human being," Gatlin said.
"When you are racing against Usain you go into a situation thinking you are the man then you get beaten by another man. So how can you beat this guy when he is winning everything.
"Along the way, I just had to be able to stay confident in who I am through my wins, my losses throughout my career with him.
"Even down to my last race I had to be able to give it all I could going to that finish line."