BEIJING: Usain Bolt comes to the world championships in Beijing caught in the crosshairs of controversial rival Justin Gatlin in what promises to be one of the closest fought sprint rivalries seen in a long time.
Bolt has dominated sprinting over the past seven years since he claimed a golden treble at the 2008 Olympics held at the same Bird’s Nest stadium that will stage the worlds between August 22 to 30.
The towering Jamaican went on to claim an unprecedented second treble at the London Games in 2012 and has won every world sprint and relay title on offer, bar a hiccup in the 100m in the 2011 Daegu worlds when he was disqualified after a false start.
Bolt, who has held the 100m and 200m world records since 2009, last month roared back from an early season pelvic injury that saw him miss six weeks of competitive action with back-to-back 100m times of 9.87 seconds at the London Diamond League meeting.
“I am still number one,” insisted the 28-year-old. “I will continue being number one. Until I retire, that’s the plan.
“It does help the confidence,” he said of his successful return to the track in London ahead of Beijing. “I have been putting in the work and I can see it is coming out on the track. It definitely looks good.”
On 100m times recorded in 2015, Bolt is now ranked number six, Gatlin topping the list with a personal best of 9.74 set in Doha in May, having also clocked 9.75 twice and 9.78.
Gatlin cuts a controversial figure on the track scene, readily admitting that a four-year doping ban served between 2006-10 after a positive test for testosterone had been both “a gift and a curse”.