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Gatlin opens season with 9.95 seconds in Japan Grand prix

6 May 2006

Justin Gatlin (Image of Sport) Justin Gatlin (Image of Sport)
Olympic champion Justin Gatlin of the United States ran a blistering 9.95 seconds in his first 100-metres of the new season.

It was a great start to 2006 for Gatlin, who has declared his goal this year is to break the 9.75 second barrier and smash the world record of 9.77 held by Asafa Powell. The Jamaican clocked 10.10 seconds a week ago in the US.

Gatlin said he was happy with his time as it set the tone for a season in which he hopes to run consistently under 10 seconds. It was also far quicker than the 10.15 seconds it took him to win the corresponding race last year.

"It felt good this year. All season long, I have been wanting to go sub-10. For my first meet, it sets the tone for that," said Gatlin, the winner of the 100m gold, the 4x100m relay silver and the 200m bronze medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

"Last year... I was more skeptical about how the (Osaka) race would go. I came here this year with a lot of confidence. I knew what I had to do," he said.

Gatlin's female compatriot Allyson Felix captured the women's 100m title at the IAAF Japan Grand Prix in a time of 11.11 seconds, though she said she felt "sluggish" after her long flight to Japan.

"The race felt OK. I felt a little bit sluggish. I was just trying to work on my start," Felix said.

"This year, I am working on my consistency. I definitely need a little bit more improvement on being consistent," she said.

Felix said she was not necessarily looking to try and break the 11-second barrier this year ahead of the World Championships.

"I am not going to focus on it. I will just be patient and let it come to me," she said.

Chinese world record holder Liu Xiang returned from an ankle injury to win his first 110m hurdles of the season easily in 13.22 seconds, a time he said was far better than expected.

Liu caused a sensation in Athens in 2004 by equalling the world record of 12.91 seconds to win gold, becoming the first Olympic champion from Asia in a track event.

"I am very happy with the time. It was unexpectedly better than I thought," he said, admitting he had considered skipping the Osaka competition after spraining his ankle two months ago.

"This was the first race this year, and I had no idea the time was going to be as good as that," said an elated Liu. The Chinese hurdler had a disappointing injury-wracked season last year, though he managed to win silver at the Helsinki World Championships.

American 400m hurdler Bershawn Jackson cruised to a comfortable victory and promised to improve his times ahead of the 2007 World Championship also to be held in Osaka.

"I am very satisfied with my performance. This is my fastest season opener," he said. "Right now, I am ahead of the game."

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