Gatlin lays down Olympic marker, Merritt dream over

Justin Gatlin powered to victory in the 200m at the US Olympic trials here Saturday, surging home ahead of in-form rival LaShawn Merritt.

Justin Gatlin surged ahead of in-form rival LaShawn Merritt to record his fastest time of the season.   -  Getty Images

Justin Gatlin powered to victory in the 200 meters at the US Olympic trials yesterday as hurdler Aries Merritt’s fairytale comeback from a kidney transplant ended in disappointment.

Gatlin, 34, won a blistering duel with LaShawn Merritt to complete a sprint double following his win in the 100m on the opening weekend at Hayward Field.

Gatlin crossed the line in 19.75 seconds, holding off a late burst from LaShawn Merritt who came home in 19.79sec.

The 2004 Olympic 100m champion later revealed he had been troubled by niggling injuries throughout the meet.

“I’ve been dealing with ankle and quad injuries through this whole series of races,” Gatlin said.

“I just went out there and did what I had to do. My coach said ‘Just get out of the blocks, and stay out.’ My eyes got big and I just kept running as hard as I could,” he added.

In the women’s 200m, reigning Olympic champion Allyson Felix —— who is chasing a 400m—200m double in Rio —— shook off the rust to qualify for Sunday’s final.

Felix reached the final after finishing second in her semi behind Tori Bowie with a time of 22.57sec.

“Not as sharp as I’d like to be, but moving on,” Felix told reporters.

But while Felix is already looking ahead to a fourth Olympic games, sprint hurdler Aries Merritt was left reflecting on an agonizing photo—finish defeat in the final of the 110m hurdles.

Merritt, the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder over the distance, had defied medical logic by returning to track and field this season following his kidney transplant last September.

Yet though the 30-year-old clocked his fastest time of the season — 13.22sec — it was not enough to earn him a top—three berth and a ticket to Rio.

Merritt later said he planned to protest but admitted that he would have little difficulty putting the disappointment into perspective.

“I came up a little bit short, I still feel that I was second or third so when it came up I was fourth I was shocked,” Merritt said.

“It’s hard not to go back to Rio. But in the circumstances I did the best I could. It’s a pity I’m not going to the Games because I know in six weeks time I’ll be in much better shape.

“But nothing could be worse than being told you’ll never run again, even if you come up a little bit short.”