American Justin Gatlin rolled back his 32 years to record a fast 100-200m sprint double at the final Diamond League meeting of the season on Friday.
In an electric night of top-notch track and field in perfect, sultry conditions at the King Baudouin Stadium, Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim then won a nail-biting high jump with the second-highest effort of all-time, 2.43m.
However, it was Gatlin who will grab the headlines, the veteran who won 100m gold in the 2004 Olympics and the double sprint titles a year later before serving a 2006 to 2010 doping ban producing two amazing races in the space of one hour.
He first raced the 100m, winning in a season’s fastest time of 9.77 seconds, which matched his world record-equaling mark set in Qatar in 2006 — later rescinded because of his doping infraction.
Only four men have ever run faster: Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, American Tyson Gay, and Jamaican duo Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell.
Gatlin then returned to the track and blasted to an incredible victory in the 200m in 19.71 seconds, just 0.03 slower than his own world leading time.
“I wanted to go undefeated,” Gatlin said. “There’s one man [Bolt] who’s dominated for years and I want to come up against that.”
In the field, Barshim pipped Ukraine’s reigning world champion Bohdan Bondarenko in the high jump, with both going for what would have been a world record 2.46m in front of a raucous capacity 46,000-strong crowd on their feet.
“Of course it’s possible to beat the record because it was set by a human. I just dont know when,” the 23-year-old Barshim said of Cuban Javier Sotomayor’s world record of 2.45m, which dates back to 1993.
There was also no world or European record in the much-touted men’s 3,000m steeplechase, controversial French athlete Mahiedine Mekhissi content with second place behind Kenya’s Commonwealth silver medalist Jairus Kipchoge Birech.
Mekhissi had vowed pre-race that he was ready to become the first athlete to “break the hegemony” enjoyed by Kenya in the gruelling event.
However, despite being dragged along on the pacemakers’ coattails, the Reims-born athlete could not get the better of Birech, the sole in the field to dip below the mythical 8-minute mark with 7:58.41.
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