Bolt helped me become a better athlete: Gatlin

Gatlin stated that the two doping bans imposed on him turned out to be a “blessing and a curse”.

Justin Gatlin in Bengaluru on Thursday.   -  K. Murali Kumar

The rivalry between sprinters Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin captivated audiences around the world. While their competition on the track was fierce, the duo maintained a healthy respect for each other.

Gatlin, the 2004 Athens Olympics 100m champion, stated that Bolt pushed him to become a better athlete.

“After we left the sport, there was a realisation that Bolt helped me become a better athlete, and vice-versa. Bolt even went on record to say that I pushed him (to get better), especially at a point when he felt like the sport did not excite him. It was exciting for me to go up against Bolt. Most other athletes may have feared Bolt’s consistent success on the world stage, but this only made me want to grow as an athlete and as a person. It made me work harder,” Gatlin, the TCS World 10K event ambassador, said here on Thursday.

Gatlin stated that the two doping bans imposed on him turned out to be a “blessing and a curse”. Being forced to sit out motivated Gatlin to extend his career for an impressively long period of time. The American only retired earlier this year, at the age of 40.

“I think about it (the doping bans) - those are the ‘what ifs’ in my life. But I also feel that if I didn’t have to serve those suspensions, I might not have had the motivation to stay on as an active sprinter for as long as I did. I may have quit after the 2008 Olympics. So it (doping bans) was a gift and a curse. It was a gift, as it showed my longevity, and dedication to the sport,” Gatlin said.

Gatlin called on young Indian track and field athletes to draw inspiration from Tokyo Olympics javelin throw champion Neeraj Chopra.  “I've talked to many Indian athletes through social media. I tell them that if you use every resource at your disposal to try and achieve your dream, you won't feel like you've let yourself down. Do not ever think that you cannot be successful because of where you come from. India now has a javelin throw Olympic champion (Neeraj Chopra). Four years ago, everyone in this room would have thought this was an impossible dream. But now, Neeraj is an inspiration to every athlete in this country,” Gatlin, a four-time gold medalist at the World Championship, said.

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