World record holder Gatlin faces one more challenge
LONDON, May 12 (Reuters) Despite adding the tag of the world's fastest man to his Olympic and world titles, Justin Gatlin must still beat Jamaica's Asafa Powell to become the undisputed sprint king.
Gatlin spent most of this week telling reporters he would break Powell's 100 metres world record and today he was as good as his word, blazing to victory in Doha in 9.76 seconds.
His rivalry with Powell is set to become one of the fiercest on the track.
The pair are due to clash for the first time in almost a year at a grand prix meeting in Gateshead, England on June 11.
They have not raced since last July in London when Powell, fresh from setting the previous world mark of 9.77 a month earlier, pulled up with a groin problem that ended his season.
A frustrated Powell watched Gatlin's 100 metres victory at the world championships in Helsinki in August from the sidelines.
The American took the title by the largest margin in the history of the championships (0.17) but Powell maintained the outcome would have been different if he had been fit.
''I said to myself, if I would've been in the race I would've won, but I wasn't,'' Powell said at the time.
He is now fit and clocked 9.95 seconds in Kingston, Jamaica last weekend on the same day that Gatlin ran an identical time in Osaka, Japan.
It is not the first time the duo have been virtually inseparable.
Gatlin was given the verdict over Powell in their only full race last year in Oregon, even though both clocked a wind-assisted 9.84.
Their times are not the only thing they share.
Gatlin and Powell are quietly confident about their ability, shunning the swagger and hype that has become associated with sprinters.
Each will be quietly confident of victory in their much-anticipated showdown next month.
REUTERS PG PM0026