By Andre Lowe—
World 100 meters champion Justin Gatlin is in disagreement with compatriot Carl Lewis’ statement that athletics’ growth was hampered by the pro-Usain Bolt focus over the past eight years.
Lewis, a nine-time Olympic champion, argued that Brand Bolt overshadowed the sport itself and suggested that track and field will be better off without the iconic Jamaican sprinter, who retired after the World Championships in London a couple of weeks ago.
“We need to do more to build on the sport. We don’t need to follow that trend that we have been in the last eight years, which was just about following one person (Bolt),” Lewis said recently.
However, Gatlin, who ended his season at the Weltklasse Zurich Diamond League meet on Thursday night after his fourth-place 10.04-second finish in the 100m final inside the Letzigrund Stadium, believes Lewis’ assessment of Bolt’s impact on the sport is out of sync with reality.
“When you are a pillar and a figurehead within the track and field community and you helped to change the game like that, you are going to command that respect and command that attention, and I have to disagree with those (Lewis’) comments,” Gatlin told The Gleaner.
“He (Bolt) has put together a great career, and he was always going to have to stop at one point in time, and there’s no better place to stop than on top, and that’s just who he is. He’s a legend, and so I have to disagree (with Lewis),” added Gatlin.
The sprinter, who actually relegated Bolt to third place in that Word Championships 100m final, went on to describe 2017 as his best year in the sport from a psychological perspective.
“This year has not really been a physical highlight of my career, if anything, I would say it was more of a mental highlight. I had to deal with injuries, I took a lot of losses at the beginning of the year, and usually, I am pretty undefeated except when it comes to Usain, but at the end of the day, I dug deep,” said Gatlin.
RAN HEART OUT
“I had about three weeks to get ready for World Championships and I ran my heart out and silenced all the doubters and naysayers, and I was able to get through it, so mentally it was a great year.”
The 35-year-old added that he has started to consider his retirement and noted that he will be doing a lot more charity work in the coming years, starting with the establishment of his foundation next month in New York.
“I have started thinking about it (retirement). The funny thing is I would like to get into commentating when I am done. I would also like to be able to get involved into an agency of some sort, but right now, I am working on a foundation to give back to kids, to help kids to be mentally and physically strong,” Gatlin shared.
“My foundation will start within a month in Manhattan, and it’s going to be called the Justin Gatlin Foundation, where we will be teaching kids to be leaders within their community and help drive that through track and field.”