Controversial sprinter runs 10th fastest 200m in history at US Champs packed with incident
With Usain Bolt seemingly out of sorts and skipping the Jamaican Championships, arch rival Justin Gatlin fired another message that he’s the man to beat in 2015 as he blasted to a 19.57 200m victory at the US Trials in Eugene.
It is short of Bolt’s world record of 19.19, but it is half a second faster than Bolt’s last race in New York and is the 10th best time in history and makes him the fifth quickest 200m man in history.
Only Bolt, Yohan Blake, Michael Johnson and Walter Dix have run quicker over half a lap of the track, all of which led to the now familiar boos of dismay across social media from fans who refuse to forgive him for his two previous drugs bans.
Gatlin beat Isiah Young, who clocked 19.93 in second place, with Wallace Spearmon third in 20.10.
A remarkable women’s 800m was won by Alysia Montano – her 1:59.15 victory was her sixth US outdoor crown and came 12 months after she ran the same championships while seven months pregnant (finishing last I her heat in 2:32).
There was more drama behind the winner, too, as Brenda Martinez finished runner-up and Ajee Wilson, the favourite, scraped a qualifying spot in third despite losing one of her shoes just before the final bend.
The men’s 800m also had its share of action as Duane Solomon took the race out hard but died massively and eventually walked through the line in outside three minutes as Nick Symmonds, the 2013 world silver medallist, came through from well behind on the second lap to win in 1:44:53.
Elsewhere, Jenna Prandini won the women’s 200m in 22.20 from Candyce McGrone and Jeneba Tarmoh, with Kaylin Whitney setting a world youth record of 22.47. Allyson Felix is already eligible to run this event in Beijing if she wishes, although the Olympic champion may choose the 400m instead.
Jenn Suhr, the Olympic champion, produced a world lead in the pole vault of 4.82m, Shamier Little took the women’s 400m hurdles in 53.74 and Joe Kovacs won the shot put title with 21.84m.
Over the barriers, David Oliver took the 110m hurdles in 13.04 and Evan Jager the 3000m steeplechase in 8:12.29, while Jenny Simpson produced a 58-second last lap to win the women’s 1500m in 4:14.86 from Shannon Rowbury.
In that race, the prodigious Mary Cain was only eighth – a performance that will surely disappoint her under-fire coach, Alberto Salazar.
Athletes’ performances aside, the ongoing Salazar controversy cast a shadow over the championships with international press in Eugene keen to speak to his athletes as they passed through the interview area.
The most vocal was Kara Goucher, a former member of the Nike Oregon Project and one of the whistleblowers on the BBC Panorama programme from earlier this month.
In an emotional interview she said she “didn’t like being labelled a liar” and added that people had been threatened at the US Trials and that more information would emerge in relation to the story in coming days.
“I want my son to be able to believe in the sport and the system,” she said. “I want USADA to show they work and I want justice for everyone involved.”