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Gatlin uses super surge for one-sided win in 100 at track and field worlds

7 August 2005

Justin Gatlin takes a victory lap after winning the 100 meters in 9.88 seconds. Helsinki, 2005. (Kirby Lee/The Sporting Image) Justin Gatlin takes a victory lap after winning the 100 meters in 9.88 seconds. Helsinki, 2005. (Kirby Lee/The Sporting Image)
Justin Gatlin didn't just win the 100 meters at the world track and field championships, he dominated it like no other sprinter in the meet's history.

The 23-year-old Olympic champion bolted away from the overmatched competition Sunday night to win in 9.88 seconds, 17-hundredths of a second ahead of runner-up Michael Frater of Jamaica. The margin of victory was the largest in the 10 world championships that have been held since the meet's inception in 1983.

"I think it really stakes the claim that I'm the champion,'' Gatlin said. "I run like a champion. I show up big when it's time to show up big.''

The race unfolded under a pink and blue sky at sunset, with virtually no wind, in front of a near-capacity crowd in the 40,000-seat Olympic Stadium.

Gatlin got off to his usual slow start, but let out a yell halfway through.

"I was like 'Yeah!'" he said. "I knew it was over. I had it. I knew that my stride length was unmatchable at that time.''

Then he burst through the field in a blur.

The previous largest margin of victory belonged to Carl Lewis -- 15-hundredths of a second -- at the second world championships in 1987 in Rome. Ben Johnson originally won that race but was later stripped of his title for doping.

Gatlin kneeled in prayer after his victory, then was handed a U.S. flag, which he held for cameras with what has become a trademark big smile from the rising superstar of the sport. The Finnish fans cheered him on.

"That's my job, to go out there and put on a great show,'' he said, "and show respect to all the countries.''

Gatlin's chief rival, world record holder Asafa Powell, watched from the stands and could only wonder what would have happened had he been in the race.

"I am quite confident in my ability,'' said Powell, who withdrew with a groin injury. "I'm sure I would have run real fast. I never doubt myself, so it would have been a good race out there.''

Gatlin, who beat Powell in the Athens Olympic final and at the Prefontaine meet in June, said he would have loved to have gone against the Jamaican.

"I think the race would have been faster,'' he said. "I think the world record would have been threatened if he was there, and I still think I would have beat him.''

Powell said he hoped to face Gatlin before the season ends, possibly in Zurich.

The Jamaican waited in the mixed zone to give a big hug to his best friend Frater, who wept over his surprising second-place finish. Defending champion Kim Collins, who barely made the finals, was third. Frater and Collins both were timed in 10.05.

Maurice Greene, three-time world 100 champion and 2000 Olympic gold medalist, also had to watch after pulling up with a hamstring injury at the U.S. championships. Greene plans to run in the 400-meter relay next weekend.

U.S. coach John Smith praised Gatlin's ability to rise to the occasion.

"He reminds me of how Maurice did that. Carl Lewis did that,'' Smith said. "They step up when the pressure's on the line.''

Gatlin isn't finished. He will compete in the 200, and anchor the 400-meter relay team.

By BOB BAUM, AP Sports Writer

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