Stage is set for sequel of Bolt-Gatlin sprint showdown

Associated Press

August 27, 2015


Jamaica's Usain Bolt, left, and South Africa's Anaso Jobodwana laugh after finishing a men's 200m semifinal at the World Athletics Championships at the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015.

BEIJING — The stage is set for another sprint showdown between Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin at the world championships.

Bolt comes into Thursday's final of the 200 meters with the bragging rights after he came from behind to beat his American rival at the line in Sunday's 100, perhaps the most thrilling race of the Jamaican great's career.

Both have shown their best in the heats and semifinals of the 200, raising expectations for an equally absorbing race at the Bird's Nest.

Seven years ago, Bolt started his amazing run of gold at the Beijing Olympics and has not lost a major 200 race since. The Jamaican, however, has been struggling with injury since winning his third straight 200 title at the 2013 world championships.

The 200 is Bolt's favorite event and cruising through the rounds literally brought a smile to his face — perhaps a bad omen for his opponents.

United States' Justin Gatlin looks at the results from a men’s 200m semifinal at the World Athletics Championships at the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015.

But the way Gatlin has overcome controversy over his four-year doping suspension midway through his career has shown that the American has an uncanny way of focusing on the task at hand.

Bolt holds the world record of 19.19 seconds from six years ago, while Gatlin has the top performance of the season at 19.57.

Also on the track Thursday, the women's 400 will be special in itself with Allyson Felix, a three-time 200 champion from the United States, favored to add the 400. And in the men's triple jump, Olympic champion Christian Taylor of the United States is poised for a high profile confrontation with Pedro Pablo Pichardo of Cuba after both went over the 18-meter mark this season.

In the women's hammer throw, it is unlikely that anyone will be able to challenge Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland, who set the world record of 81.08 meters this season.

In morning action, Gezebe Dibaba proved she has it in her to meet some very high family standards.

Not only did she remain on track to match the two gold medals big sister Tirunesh won at the same stadium seven years ago, she is also shooting for her older sibling's world record, too.

Under the morning sun at the Bird's Nest, Dibaba ran easily before putting in a little kick for home to win her 5,000-meter heat in 15 minutes, 20.82 seconds. That was more than a minute behind the world record her sister set in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she won the 5,000-10,000 double.

It's a time gap that does not daunt Dibaba at all.

"I can run faster than the current world record," said Dibaba, who set a world record in the 1,500 last month.

If she wants the record in Sunday's final, she will likely have to change the tactics she used to win her first gold in Beijing — the 1,500 — when she hung back for half the race before kicking for home.