'Gatlin kept me motivated' - Bolt hails fierce American rival for always 'keeping him on his toes'

By Sports Desk January 09, 2022

Jamaica track and field icon, Usain Bolt, has hailed American sprinter Justin Gatlin for keeping him sharp throughout his career.

Bolt, who remains the world record holder over both the 100 and 200 metres, retired from the sport in 2017.  His rivalry with the American, though statistically, a tad one-sided at times, was one of the most abiding and, at times, fiercest in the sport of track and field, particularly when the two-faced the starter at major games.

On the biggest stage, it was Gatlin who triumphed in the first two encounters.  Bolt failed to advance past the first round at the 2004 Olympics and it was Gatlin who went on to claim the 200m title, adding to 100m crown, which was won prior.

One year later, Gatlin left the Jamaican far behind in the 200m final to take the sprint double at the 2005 World Championship in Helsinki.  The two did not face off at the 2007 World Championship as Gatlin was banned from the sport for four years after testing positive for a banned substance in 2006.  On that occasion, Bolt finished second to another American Tyson Gay.

From 2008, however, it was Bolt who became the premier force in world sprinting and outside of the rare blip in Osaka 2011, where he false-started in the 100m, when undefeated at major games for almost 9 years.  Gatlin returned to the sport in 2010 but found it impossible to get the better of the Jamaican.  He was eliminated at the semi-final stage of the 2011 World Championships, placed third at 2012 Olympics, was second at the 2013 World Championships.  Gatlin again finished runner-up to Bolt in both the 100m and 200m at the 2015 World Championships and again took silver at Rio Olympics in 2016. 

The American did, however, manage to turn the tables on Bolt at the 2017 World Championships where he claimed gold, with the Jamaican finishing in third place in the final race before he retired. 

  “Justin Gatlin played a very important role in keeping me motivated because he kept me on my toes, he kept me working out,” Bolt explained during Puma's Only See Great campaign.

“He kept me knowing that every season he’s going to be there, if I want to be the best I have to be ready and be prepared to beat him," he added.

Overall, the Jamaican leads the head-to-head match-up between the athletes with a 9-2 advantage, but he admits with Gatlin and others around he always had to look over his shoulder.

"The rivalries were strong and for me Tyson and Justin and Asafa and Blake, they really pushed me through my career to stay on top of my game at all times to be the best me."

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