Gatlin hopes for solid Shanghai race in build-up to Olympics
SHANGHAI (AP) Justin Gatlin's last competition in China ended in huge disappointment-he came second to Usain Bolt not once, but twice, in both the 100 and 200 meters at last year's world championships.
Gatlin won't face Bolt again until later this season, but his mind is firmly on his longtime rival as he prepares for his first Diamond League race of the year in Shanghai on Saturday.
''As a runner, competitor, sprinter, you know, you have to prepare yourself for a win or a loss,'' Gatlin said Thursday. ''I gave the best I could give at that point in time in Beijing. Now I'm training to be a better athlete and make sure I stay focused within myself when it comes to competition and I hope it will turn around for me when it comes to Rio `16.''
Gatlin is coming off a win Sunday in the 100 meters at a Golden Grand Prix race in Japan, but unlike last year when he opened his season with a scorching 9.74-second win at a Diamond League event in Doha, Qatar, he finished this race in a more pedestrian 10.02 seconds.
The American is coming back from an ankle injury in the off-season, but he said that wasn't a factor in the race.
''Every day it's gotten stronger and better,'' he said of his ankle. ''I think if I had to roll my ankle, the best time was to roll it in the off-season or fall, so now getting into competition, I just need to worry about keeping my muscles loose and be able to perform well.''
He's also trying to pace himself so he peaks at just the right time at the U.S. Olympic trials and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
''I have two tough tasks in front of me so I don't want to get too burnt out before the season even kicks off to the important part where I need to be at my top form,'' Gatlin said.
In the men's 800, Olympic champion David Rudisha will also be looking to improve on his start to the season-a victory at a meet in Australia in March where the Kenyan ran 1 minute, 44.78 seconds, well off his world record of 1:40.91.
''I'm looking for a good race because after Australia, I'm having a good training back in Kenya,'' Rudisha said. ''Of course, my ultimate aim is to be at the top form in August for the Rio Olympics.''
The marquee event on the women's side in Shanghai, the 200 meters, took a hit when two-time Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica pulled out with a toe injury.
In her absence, Veronica Campbell-Brown will be the sprinter to beat after posting a time of 22.29 seconds at the end of April-third in the world this year.
The veteran Jamaican, who turns 34 on Sunday and will be competing in her fifth Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, faces a trio of Americans in Shanghai-Candyce McGrone, Jeneba Tarmoh and Tiffany Townsend.
The 1,500 meters also saw a prominent withdrawal when Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, the silver medalist at last year's worlds in Beijing, was forced to pull out with a hamstring injury. Faith Kipyegon of Kenya, who beat Hassan in Beijing, will now be the favorite in the race.
The men's 110 hurdles, always a fan favorite in Shanghai because of strong performances in recent years by Chinese hurdlers Liu Xiang (2011, 2012 champion) and Xie Wenjun (2014 champion), has again drawn a top field.
David Oliver, the 2013 world champion, and Aries Merritt, the 2012 Olympic champion who is working his way back into form after undergoing a kidney transplant in September, will try to improve on their respective fourth- and sixth-place finishes at the season-opening Diamond League event in Doha last week. Also in the field is Omar McLeod of Jamaica, who won the Doha race in a season-leading time of 13.05 seconds, and local hope Xie.