Usain Bolt 'happy' ahead of good vs evil clash with Gatlin
Jamaican sprinter cast in the role of athletics saviour against American rival tarnished by two drugs bans
The athletics World Championships start in Beijing this weekend and the highlight of the meeting is likely to be the "good vs evil" clash between usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin in the men's 100m.
Even new IAAF president Lord Coe has nailed his colours to the mast, claiming that a win for Gatlin, who has twice been suspended for doping violations, would make him feel "queasy".
While Coe has been tasked with the job of restoring athletics' tarnished reputation in the long run, Bolt has been given the short-term job of proving that dopers don't prosper by stopping Gatlin.
And the pressure is immense, says Tom Fordyce of the BBC. "Athletics has always needed Usain Bolt, but never has its need been as great as this week. Should Justin Gatlin be crowned world champion after two doping bans, in the highest profile of all its finals, it would encapsulate for many what has gone wrong and is still going wrong with the sport."
But the Jamaican insists he is ready to take on the American, having lashed out at him earlier in the year. "Reluctantly thrust into the role of his sport's saviour amid an avalanche of doping claims, Usain Bolt has insisted he is in good shape to beat his twice-banned rival Justin Gatlin at the world championships," says Marina Hyde in The Guardian.
"I'm at my best, that's all I can say. I'm in great form, I'm happy with where I'm at," said Bolt. "I've been running good, my start has come together at the right time, I'm happy so I'm ready to go."
However, he also said he was "sad" about the renewed focus on doping. "People are saying I need to win for the sport, but I can't do it by myself," he said. "It's a responsibility of all the athletes to take it upon themselves to save the sport and go forwards without drug cheats."
Bolt announced himself to the world at the 2008 Olympics, destroying the field to win gold in the 100m and 200m, and he is hoping to carry on where he left off seven year ago.
Gatlin, who was the defending Olympic champion, was not in Beijing as he was serving the second drugs ban of his career, having tested positive in 2006. Since his return to the sport in 2010 he has been beaten by Bolt in the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships, but he has the fastest time in the world this year.
"There had been concerns Bolt was below par after injury niggles delayed his start to the season but his camp say he is in form to run a time in the low 9.6sec region," reports the Daily Mail. "It is likely he will need to run that quickly to defeat American Gatlin, who has a season's best of 9.74sec and has dipped under 9.80sec four times this season."