Brussels: After a sensational sprint double at the Diamond League finale, American Justin Gatlin admitted Tom Hanks’ film character Forrest Gump had been an inspiration as he battled back from a four-year doping ban.
Gatlin rolled back the years to scorch to a rare 100-200-metre double on Friday and immediately stated he wanted to establish a rivalry with Jamaican star Usain Bolt, who has already called time on his season after a short-lived comeback from injury.
Belying his 32 years, Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100-metre gold medallist and double sprint world champion in 2005 before serving a 2006-10 doping ban, first raced the 100-metres and won by setting a season’s fastest time of 9.77sec.
Amazingly, the American’s time matched his world record-equalling mark set in Qatar in 2006 — later rescinded because of his doping infraction. Only four men have ever run faster: Bolt, American Tyson Gay, and Jamaican duo Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell.
Gatlin then returned to the track just an hour later and blasted to an incredible victory in the 200-metres in 19.71sec, just 0.03 slower than his own world-leading time.
“It felt great. Me and my coach Denis Mitchell have been working this year to put together a good race pattern and I knew right from the start of the season that I could run 9.7 or even better,” he said.
“We just needed favourable conditions and tonight was probably the most perfect night I’ve had all year. It was a very special night for me and my family.
“To be able to run 19.71 and 9.77 in almost an hour apart or less... we work very hard all year long, so I don’t see why not give myself to the fans.
“I wanted to test my toughness, to see what I can do under pressure.”
Gatlin said Forrest Gump, the lead character of the 1993 Oscar-winning film of the same name, who sets out on a three-year coast-to-coast US marathon after a spurned marriage proposal, continues to play a role in his preparations.
“One of the movies I watch before I go out and run is Forrest Gump because all he does is: when he runs, he goes. I think that’s my mentality when I go out on the track: just go,” he said.
“Why am I going to overthink, over-analyse my race, who’s next to me, what someone’s run this year? I’m talented enough.”
Gatlin insisted that his goal next season was to be a rival who pushed double world record holder Bolt.
“It’s not just one lane on the track when it comes to the 100-metres or any other event,” he said. “As competitors we are obligated to show our best performance.
“I’m not going to lay down when Usain Bolts takes the stage and shows the world who he is.
“I definitely want to go out there and put on a good show. If he goes out there and runs one of the world’s fastest times, I want to feel like I’m pushing him to it, or I’m going to go out there and try and beat him.”