Athletics

Bolt: I don't fear Gatlin

Jamaican superstar ready for showdown with American in what is being billed as a Good v Evil battle

A classic Michael Phelps performance ended the swimming legend's career yesterday morning (Singapore time) with 23 Olympic gold medals, before handing over the Rio Games centre stage to Usain Bolt.

Bolt and Justin Gatlin are poised for the final chapter of their long rivalry in the 100 metres final in Rio de Janeiro this morning (9.25am) when they are expected to duel once more for the title of fastest man on the planet.

The 29-year-old Bolt told the French newspaper Le Parisien yesterday that Gatlin - the fastest man this year - "holds no fear for me" and that athletics, mired in a major drugs scandal, needs him to beat a rival snared twice for doping.

The two sprinters easily negotiated their opening heats on a raucous morning session at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday, with the 34-year-old Gatlin topping the qualifying times with a tidy 10.01 seconds.

Jamaican superstar Bolt, bidding to win 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles for a third straight Games, was fourth quickest in 10.07sec.

After his race, Bolt said that he was pleased to have got off the mark without any problems.

"I'm feeling good. I'm happy. As I said, I've got the first one out of the way so I'm happy about that," Bolt said, predicting a fast semi-final (he will run in Lane 5 in the second semi at about 8.07am).

"It's definitely going to be a good semi-final. There are a lot of guys running fast. It's good. It gets you running and gets you up to speed to go out there in the final."

Gatlin, who will run in Lane 5 in the third semi-final at about 8.14am, said he was kept on his toes by a crop of young sprinters.

DIFFERENT BREED

"These young guys coming up, it's a different breed," he said.

"They're running with their heart, they're trying for the finish line and going for that podium."

Gatlin, who has twice been suspended for doping offences, has faced criticism from even within his own team at these Olympics, with teenage swimming gold medallist Lilly King saying last week that athletes like him should not be allowed to compete.

Asked about the young swimmer's remarks, Gatlin shot back: "I don't even know who Lilly King is - she does swimming, not track and field. I'm not worried about that.

"I've come back and done what I need to do. I've worked hard to get back to here, I've been tested like everyone else and I believe in the system like everyone else."

It all points to a scintillating showdown between Bolt and Gatlin in the final and American running legend Michael Johnson is confident that Bolt will prove that he is still the fastest man in the world.

"Usain Bolt's success relies on three things. Take one out and his career would not be what it is," said the 48-year-old Johnson, who won four Olympic gold medals, eight World Championships and still holds the world and Olympic records in the 400m.

"One, he was fortunate to be blessed with a tremendous talent. All Olympians have superior talent compared to normal people.

"But Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis and Bolt have natural talent even superior to that. Unique talent.

"Second, it then takes a lot of hard and smart work, and that is central to success.

"The third thing is most important - knowing yourself as an athlete.

"What sort of mindset do you need to be in every day to get the best out of training? What sort of environment do you need? What is your pre-race routine?

"Usain knows absolutely what he has to do to be at his best.

"Technically, Bolt has changed a few things, he has made his running a bit cleaner.

"Because he is so much the world's best, he'll be good enough to win the gold." - Wire Services.

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