Saturday 16 December 2017

'We don't hate each other' - Justin Gatlin pays heartfelt tribute to Usain Bolt after spoiling Jamaican's party

United States' Justin Gatlin bows to Jamaica's Usain Bolt after winning the Men's 100 meters final
United States' Justin Gatlin bows to Jamaica's Usain Bolt after winning the Men's 100 meters final

Guy Aspin

A humble Justin Gatlin paid a heartfelt tribute to Usain Bolt after spoiling the Jamaican's farewell party in London.

The two-time drug cheat bowed down to Bolt after being confirmed as the world 100 metres champion, 12 years after his last global gold medal.

His victory in 9.92 seconds was greeted by a cacophony of boos from the packed crowd at the London Stadium, his fellow American Christian Coleman taking silver in 9.94secs and Bolt, in the final individual race of his glittering career, the bronze in 9.95s.

Gatlin, who returned from his second suspension in 2010 after four years out of the sport, has found himself cast as the pantomime villain in his battle with Bolt.

Beaten into silver at the previous two World Championships and last summer's Olympics, the 35-year-old finally found a way to win, but was more intent on heaping praise on his departing rival than basking in his own glory.

"Bolt is an electrifying character who has run sizzling times, mind-blowing times and throughout the years he has always kept it classy," Gatlin said.

"He's inspired me to be a stronger, faster competitor and I've only wished every year to be his top rival.

"We've grown so much respect for each other throughout the years.

I think a lot of people in the media think we have this bitter rivalry where we hate each other, whereas actually it's the opposite.

"We joke around, we've actually gone to parties together and we just keep it low key. It's a gentleman's rivalry and I have nothing by respect for him. Even me being older than him, he's such an inspiration for me.

"It's Usain Bolt's night, he's done so much for the sport. Win or lose, he's the man and the first thing I did when I crossed the line and saw that I won, I paid homage to him, because he deserves it. Usain is a Goliath."

Supremely gracious in victory he may have been, leaving Bolt to lap up the acclaim from his adoring public but there was no hiding from the hostile reception which greeted Gatlin whenever he took to the track.

"I didn't really focus on the booing," he said.

"I just stayed focused on what I had to do. I guess I've become more of a rival for Usain, I guess that's where the booing's come from."

Coleman, at 21 the youngest man on the podium by nine years, was pleased to be sat alongside the pair.

"I'm happy to be here, it's definitely a surreal feeling," he said.

Press Association

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