(Reuters) – A mouthwatering showdown between Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin could be a month away as the two rival sprinters are set to compete at next month’s IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas.
Gatlin’s participation in the May 2-3 event was confirmed on Wednesday in a text message to Reuters by the sprinter’s manager a day after the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association said Bolt will also compete in Nassau.
While Bolt and Gatlin’s confirmation for the event offers a chance for the sprinters to clash, much will depend on how the Jamaican and U.S. coaches line up their squads in the 4×100 and 4×200 relays.
Both Bolt and Gatlin anchored their countries’ 4×100 teams at the 2013 Moscow world championships with Jamaica triumphing.
As for a much anticipated race over 100 or 200 metres, that may have to wait until August’s world championships in Beijing.
When asked on Wednesday about the likelihood of a meeting before then, Bolt’s manager, Ricky Simms, told Reuters via email:
“I don’t know where the other sprinters are running but I believe many meets would prefer not to invite athletes who bring negative headlines to their event.”
Simms was referring to athletes who have served doping suspensions, including Gatlin whose racing has sparked major criticism in Europe despite him being eligible to compete.
The 2004 Olympic champion went undefeated last season, grabbing top world rankings in the 100 and 200 metres in a year when Bolt was often injured.
They have not met since the 2013 worlds, with the Jamaican claiming both sprint titles, but the rivalry is heating up.
“I’d say I’m the guy to beat right now,” Gatlin said recently at the Texas Relays.
But Glen Mills, Bolt’s coach, said the lanky sprinter has nothing to fear.
“We take all competitors with a level of seriousness and I don’t see Gatlin as a joke, but the truth of the matter is Usain at his best doesn’t have much to worry about,” Mills told Reuters this week.
Bolt, 28, holds world records of 9.58 seconds in the 100 and 19.19 in the 200 from 2009.
He opens his 100 metres season on April 19 in Rio de Janeiro, the 2016 Olympics host city, and has races planned for New York, Paris and Lausanne with more to come.
Gatlin’s schedule has not been announced. The 33-year-old set personal bests of 9.77 and 19.68 in 2014.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)