American sprinter Justin Gatlin qualified for his fourth Olympic Games and ran the fastest 100m time of 2016 so far at the US team trials in Eugene, Oregon on Sunday (3 July). The 34-year-old, who has served two doping bans during his controversial athletics career to date including an eight-year suspension that was later halved to four, clocked an impressive 9.83secs during the men's semi-final before improving to 9.80 thereafter.
That time, identical to the one that saw him book a place at London 2012, was enough to see off the considerable threat of young Trayvon Bromell, who qualified for his maiden Olympics by following up his 9.86 with a 9.84 . The duo will be joined in Rio de Janeiro by Marvin Bracy, a former wide receiver for Florida State University who took third place in 9.98. Tyson Gay ran 10.03 to finish a distant fifth.
"My parents bought their ticket, my family had their tickets, so it put the pressure on me to make sure I punch my ticket," Gatlin said after his victory, which eclipsed the previous fastest annual time of 9.86 – a joint European record – set by France's Jimmy Vicaut in Montreuil last month.
"I wasn't too worried about the time. Last year I was all about time and running fast and consistent, but this year I was trying to rise to the occasion, rise to the moment, and that's what I did today. I got to continue that, get stronger, get faster and represent for America.
"There's a new era of sprinters that's coming along, and they got a lot of heart, got a lot of guts, got a lot of grit, and when it's time for me to leave, rest assured that I'll be able to pass the torch onto Trayvon and Bracy and they'll handle business."
Gatlin's blistering form will only serve to increase the pressure on rival Usain Bolt. The six-time Olympic champion was forced to withdraw from Jamaica's team trials on Friday night on medical grounds (1 July) after being diagnosed with a grade one hamstring tear. He will now have to prove his fitness at the London Anniversary Games later this month.