US sprinter and Athens 100m Olympic champ Justin Gatlin beat six-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt in the men’s 100 metres race at the Rome Golden Gala, Diamond League.
Gatlin was clocked at 9.94 seconds – a step slower than the 9.91 he posted in Beijing last month – while Bolt came in right behind him in 9.95, and said, smiling, that he was just happy to finish under 10-seconds for the first time this season. Jimmy Vicaut of France finished third in 10.02. Justin beat Usain by one-hundredth of a second, that’s like 1% of a second. Justin actually had to dip his head over the line to win in 9.94 seconds. Usain came in 9.95.
Usain was making his first appearance in the Diamond League this season since his recent recovery from a hamstring injury. Usain explained what happened to him:
“I got the perfect start that I wanted, then about five steps in I stumbled a bit and that kind of threw my game off. My legs didn’t feel like my legs coming into the straight. I guess I need to do more strength work. I think I just need time to get it back together but the fact I got a good start threw me off. At least I got under 10 seconds.
“It is always a good thing to lose. You can figure how to step it up. I knew I wasn’t in great shape but I’m not worried. It takes time to get back into shape and I didn’t expect much from this race.”
Usain’s next race will be in the men’s 200m in next Thursday’s Diamond League meeting in Oslo.
“Bolt is a great competitor and a great champion,” Gatlin told reporters. “To come out here and have a victory, it just stamps that I’m having a good season… You can never count out Usain.”
Bolt, who ran 9.76 in Rome last season, actually got off to a rare good start Thursday – the fastest in the field – which usually spells doom for his competitors. But the 31-year-old Gatlin was able to quickly chase him down, take a lead by the 50-meter mark, and somehow hold off the reigning Olympic champ.
“I got the perfect start. What I wanted,” Bolt told reporters. “About five steps in, I stumbled a little bit.”
“For me, it’s just going through the season and putting things together for the World Championships,” Bolt added. “The season is still very early. I am not surprised.”
Meanwhile, Gatlin is undefeated in five races this season, and has run under 10-seconds four times if you count the wind-aided 9.88 he ran at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene last weekend.
“I have a different feel going into the season than I did last year…” Gatlin told the BBC earlier this week. “I want to go into this season with that same attitude but more calm, more collected. I want to be able to know who my opponents are and what they do and what they bring to the table.”