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Sprint kings set to meet

16 May 2006

Organisers of the Norwich Union British Grand Prix are adamant that Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell will meet next month in Gateshead for their first 100m head-to-head of the season.

The two are scheduled to do battle at the June 11 meeting less than a month after Gatlin broke Powell's world record, although a report in USA Today suggested the face-off might not happen.

Meeting director Ian Stewart said: "Subsequent to the speculation in the American press, we have contacted Gatlin's agent Renaldo Nehemiah, who has assured us that Justin will race in Gateshead at the Norwich Union British Grand Prix."

Nehemiah seemed to have told the American newspaper Gatlin's agreement to appear at the Tyneside meeting did not include racing his arch-rival.

But Fast Track, who organise all major international meetings on behalf of UK Athletics, immediately contacted Nehemiah to clear up the issue.

"UK Athletics is proud of staging the world's best athletics meetings here in Britain," said Stewart.

"We want to attract the best fields to the UK and we negotiated a contract with Justin Gatlin to compete at the Norwich Union British Grand Prix in Gateshead on June 11, as long ago as November last year."

"We have subsequently secured Asafa Powell for the same meeting."

He added: "It is not our policy to discuss with athletes who they will face in an individual race."

Gatlin, the reigning Olympic and world champion, took one hundredth of a second off his Jamaican opponent's world record with a time of 9.76 seconds in Doha on Friday.

But Nehemiah is keen to keep the two apart as much as possible to ensure their clashes do not start to lose appeal.

He told USA Today: "Everybody's clamouring for the first meeting. I would say they'll meet this year maybe two times. Maybe once. No more than three."

"We're trying to do our part as far as keeping interest and buzz in our sport as to when these guys will meet, ideally culminating in the world championships next year when it really matters."

"We may entertain some Las Vegas type of special circumstances race," said Nehemiah, adding Gatlin planned to compete at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene on May 28 and the Reebok Grand Prix in New York on June 3.

Gatlin then plans to chase a sprint double at the USA Track and Field Championships in Indianapolis.

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