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Powell says Gatlin is a coward if he withdraws from Gateshead show-down

16 May 2006

By Gary Smith

The much anticipated 100 metres show-down between two of track and field's most exciting sprinters in this era could be a no-show, after a report suggested that American Justin Gatlin, the newly-crowned world record holder over the distance, may pull out of the Gateshead Grand Prix in England.

Both Gatlin and Jamaican Asafa Powell, the previous record holder, were on schedule to clash at the June 11 meeting but, according to the report, Gatlin could very well pull out of the dash and a dissatisfied Powell said that decision would mean he's a coward.

"I heard he (Gatlin) pulled out, but I don't know why," said Powell following his return to Jamaica from this weekend's Felix Sanchez Invitational in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic.

"Last year, after I broke the record, he was saying that I am a coward, so this year, if he pulls out of anything again, I am going to say he is a coward," he added.

At the Qatar IAAF World Super Tour in Doha, on Friday, Gatlin sizzled to 9.76 seconds to clip one-hundredth of a second off Powell's 2005 world record, but Powell vowed to regain his record, which he said is only on loan, from his American rival.

"The plan is just to regain my title as soon as possible," said the 23-year-old, whose next race will be at the Bislett Games in Oslo on June 3.

"I'm not sure if it's the next time I touch the track, but it will happen soon."

The news of the Powell v Gatlin uncertainty broke after Renaldo Nehemiah, Gatlin’s manager, said in an interview with USA Today that the projected head-to-head clash at the Norwich Union British Grand Prix might not happen.

"Everybody's clamoring for the first meeting (Powell-Gatlin)," Nehemiah said. "I would say they'll meet this year maybe two times. Maybe once. No more than three," added Nehemiah, while shying away from mentioning the Gateshead clash.

"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."

Powell's manager, Paul Doyle added that, like Gatlin's camp, "We did not have anything in our contract to say that Justin will be there."

Commenting on the unlikely matchup, Doyle said: "I heard rumours of the same (Gateshead clash) thing, but I can't say what was in Justin's contract.

"Asafa is running in Gatestead, but I am not sure about Gatlin. I can't speak for Gatlin," he added.

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