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Gatlin, Powell scheduled to meet in London on July 28

8 June 2006
www.wcsn.com

Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell (Image of Sport) Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell (Image of Sport)
www.imageofsport.com

By Elliott Denman

Drums are already beating. Barbs between the protagonists are flying. Legal wagering shops will soon be setting "the line." In short, buildup to the Justin Gatlin-Asafa Powell match race -- scheduled for the Norwich Union London Grand Prix meeting on July 28 -- is under way.

Fast Track, the organizer and promoter of the London Grand Prix event, has confirmed that the two have indeed agreed to race at famed Crystal Palace Stadium.

There may be no backing away from this one, as was the case with the previously scheduled -- but since cancelled -- Gatlin-Powell 100m duel originally slated to be run at the Norwich Union Grand Prix Meet in Gateshead, England this Sunday.

The only thing that may beat the July 28 race out of the blocks is the intervention of other meet organizers, with perhaps promises of heftier paydays, in the fray to line up these two "heavyweights" of the athletics world.

As some rumors have it, IAAF Golden League meets in Paris (July 8) and Rome (July 14), and Grand Prix tour meets in Athens (July 1) and Lausanne (July 11) may soon weigh in with their own bids to sign the superstars of 100m sprinting.

Ever since American Gatlin covered 100 meters in 9.77 seconds in Doha (the time originally announced as 9.76, but raised 1/100th of a second four days later) on May 12, to equal the world record Jamaica's Powell set in Athens on June 14, 2005, the clash -- or clashes -- of the two became either dreams or headaches for the sport's organizers and enthusiasts.

Powell will indeed run at Gateshead on Sunday, but Gatlin is back home in Raleigh, N.C., resting his legs and gearing up for his next start at the USA National Championships, June 21-25 in Indianapolis.

In the run-up to Gateshead, Powell fired a few potshots at Gatlin.

He called the legality of the American's Qatar performance "suspicious" on the grounds it was probably aided by winds higher than the IAAF-allowed maximum of two meters per second. "Other athletes [who ran in the Doha race] say the wind must have been plus four or five," Powell said in an interview with athletics writer Duncan MacKay of The Guardian.

Gatlin, after winning the 100m at the Reebok Grand Prix meet in New York City last Saturday, indicated that his primary concern at this stage of the season was beating other American spinters in Indianapolis before he could event think of facing Powell next month.

On current form, though, Gatlin should have no problem staying ahead of his domestic pursuers. While Gatlin has already notched five sub-10-second performances this spring -- 9.77 in the Doha final after a 9.86 in the trials, 9.87 in New York, 9.88 in Oregon and 9.96 in Osaka -- no other American has even come close.

Fastest times among other Americans in 2006 have been Travis Padgett (10.00), Marcus Brunson and Shawn Crawford (10.01), Jason Smoots, Marc Burns and Tyson Gay (10.04), and Leonard Scott (10.05.)

At the 2005 USA Nationals in Carson, Calif., Gatlin collected double golds in the 100m and 200m, a feat he later repeated at the IAAF World Championships in Helsinki. Whether he runs both events in Indianapolis remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Powell follows his own agenda.

At Gateshead, the spotlight may be on Britain's Dwain Chambers as much as it will be on Powell. Chambers, the 2002 European champion in the 100m, who set the Gateshead Stadium record of 10.05 back in 1999, is returning to the sport after a two-year suspension for failing a drug test.

Powell, for one, isn't happy to see him back.

"Athletes should be banned for life," he has said.

Powell has also signed on for the Golden League's Gaz de France meet on July 8. A huge crowd for this meet is virtually assured. The 2005 meet, held at the Stade de France Stadium in the Paris suburb of Saint Denis, attracted an eye-opening 70,253 fans. This is the stadium which hosted the 2003 IAAF World Championships.



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