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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 May 2006, 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK
Cram on Gatlin
Steve Cram
By Steve Cram
BBC Sport commentator

I don't think we should be surprised Justin Gatlin equalled Asafa Powell's world record when he raced to victory in Doha in 9.77 seconds (a time that was later rounded up).

Justin Gatlin is mobbed by the press after breaking the world champion
Gatlin will be a man in demand after breaking the 100m record

Gatlin only turned professional in 2003 and I remember first watching him run indoors over 60m in Birmingham.

He had come from a background in American football, he was talented, he could choose between any number of sports to follow a career in and we know he had a blistering start.

We didn't know much more about him other than that he was a typical American sprinter - he was stocky and strong.

Since then, his rise has been rapid and, to be honest, he was a shock winner at the Olympics beating Maurice Green, Francis Obikwelu and Asafa Powell to the gold.

Once he got that under his belt he has been dominant, going from relative obscurity to the Olympic crown, the world title and now the world record.

Some argue Gatlin's achievements are tarnished by his positive test for amphetamines at the 2001 US junior championships.

But a subsequent ban was overturned after it was discovered the illegal substances were part of the medication he had been taking for a decade to combat attention deficit disorder.

Gatlin has been fairly open about it all and said why it happened from the very beginning.

Given everything that has happened in American sprinting, with former world record Tim Montgomery's positive test and the Balco scandal, I would be stunned if he was trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

1982: Born 10 Feb, Brooklyn, New York
2003: Wins the US and world indoor 60m titles
2004: Wins Olympic 100m gold in 9.85secs and takes 200m bronze
2005: Claims world 100m gold in 9.88secs by 0.17secs the biggest winning margin in the history of the Worlds. Completes the double with 200m gold
2006: Equals world 100m record, clocking 9.77secs in Doha
This is the worst possible period to try to cheat and that gives us confidence Gatlin is legitimate. He is also a nice, personable guy without any of the usual swagger you get with some of the big sprinters.

So, we should not be shocked or cynical now Gatlin equalled the world record but there are two unusual factors about his feat.

It is very unusual to find one person who encompasses the three honours of Olympic champion, World title holder and world record holder.

The last person to do that was another American, Maurice Greene, who broke the record in 1999, the same year he won the world title and one year before he captured the Olympic crown.

But Greene and Gatlin are in a very rare group. Those athletes who can go to major events and make it all the way through the rounds, and those who show flashes of brilliant pace are often very different.

The other surprise is that Gatlin has equalled the record so early in the season.

His season opener in Osaka of 9.95 was pretty swift and he said he was ready to break the record but the season hasn't got going yet, so it is a good achievement.

Both Gatlin and Powell say they are capable of taking the world record down to 9.70

And if you want to go somewhere to set fast times, Doha is not a bad place, it's warm, sunny and there is relatively little wind.

Over the last couple of seasons, experts have been saying Powell was the one with the talent and Gatlin was simply better at winning medals.

Now Gatlin has matched Powell's feat it will be interesting to see how he responds.

I genuinely think Powell is capable of going faster.

In fact, both of them have said they are capable of taking the world record down to 9.70.

The fantastic news for British fans is the next time Gatlin takes on Powell is in Gateshead on 11 June.

It is also good for Gatlin and Powell that they can spar with a great rival because that can only drive and motivate them.

Nobody has run the perfect race yet so, on the right track, in the right place and with perfect conditions, I believe we will see how fast Gatlin and Powell can really go.

Gatlin denied outright 100m mark
17 May 06 |  Athletics
Powell & Gatlin set for Gateshead
09 May 06 |  Athletics


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