Veteran American sprinter Justin Gatlin set a goal of winning another Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games on Sunday – then refused to rule out continuing his career into his forties.
The 39-year-old will become the oldest man to win an Olympic medal on track if he steps onto the podium at this summer’s Tokyo Games delayed by coronavirus.
And with former rival Usain Bolt now retired and reigning 100m world champion Christian Coleman banned from the Tokyo Games for missing three doping tests, Gatlin said he believes he has a realistic chance.
“I hope so – that’s why I’m still here,” he said after taking part in a closed-door test event at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.
“I love making Olympic teams, but I’m not here for the free trip. I want to be able to work hard and get back on that podium at some point, and I hope this year will be this year for me. “
Gatlin won gold in the 100m in Athens in 2004, but was forced to miss the 2008 Games due to a suspension for drug offenses.
He won bronze in 2012 and silver four years later, and said on Sunday that Tokyo would be his “fourth and last Olympics” if he were part of the US team.
But he quickly changed his tactics when asked if he would definitely hang up his spikes this summer.
“I’m saying that right now, but obviously the way my career is going, I don’t know,” he said.
“I’m happy with where I am. I’m always thirsty for competition, so I’ll never say never. “
Gatlin won Sunday’s 100m race in 10.24 seconds, and is pleased with his form as he considers next month’s US practice.
But he admitted the Games would be “definitely different” with strict anti-virus countermeasures in place, and that “a lot of athletes won’t be happy” with the rules restricting their movement.
“I just miss going out – going to local restaurants and eating local food,” he said.
“Hopefully by the time the Olympics come around he will be a little more forgiving on what we can go for. “
Sunday’s event was held behind closed doors, with Tokyo currently in a state of viral emergency, and Gatlin called the atmosphere inside the cavernous stadium “bizarre.”
Olympics organizers will decide next month how many fans, if any, can attend the Games, and Gatlin believes athletes will need to “bring their own energy to the track.”
“For all the athletes who are coming, they need to focus on level 10,” he said.
The Tokyo Games will be the first Olympic Games since Gatlin won gold in 2004, not to mention Bolt, a three-time 100m champion.
But Gatlin isn’t taking anything for granted, with his former rival now out of place.
“Before, it was Usain and I who faced each other and knew exactly what was going to happen,” he said.
“Now you have to keep your head turned, because anyone can go up. “
© 2021 AFP