Justin Gatlin proved he was toying with rivals in earlier rounds by dismissing all to win the men’s 200m at the US Olympic Trials on Saturday.
The 2004 Olympic Games 100m champion won the half lap event in 19.75, ahead of LaShawn Merritt, 19.79. Merritt ran 19.74 in the semi-finals on Friday.
“I got up this morning thinking, ‘I’ve already got my ticket punched for Rio.’ But then I realized I can’t start thinking that way. I need to go out there and battle,” said Gatlin.
“I came off the turn ahead and my eyes got big. With 30 or 40 meters left, I could see LaShawn’s legs churning, and said, ‘Oh no, not like Beijing again.’ I kept my poise and I was able to get to the line first.”
LaShawn Merritt said: “When I got on the straightaway, I started to lift, but my semifinal felt a lot smoother. I wasn’t tired, it was just that my form was off a little bit, but it’s cool. It felt good.”
“I had three days between the 400 and the 200, and at the Olympics it’ll be one day, so I’ll talk to my coach and see how he’ll adjust training headed towards Rio, and just handle it a round at a time.”
Ameer Webb, who beat Gatlin in the first round, was third in 20.00. Michael Norman, who finished ahead of Gatlin in the semis, was fifth in 20.14 while Tyson Gay ended sixth in 20.38.
Tori Bowie with 22.27 leads her rivals going into the women’s 200m final. Deejah Stevens is the second fastest with 22.45 while Allyson Felix, 22.57 is next best.
“I was not as sharp as I like to be, but I’m moving on,” said Felix.
Bowie said: “I knew I was competing against some phenomenal ladies today, so I knew I had to execute really well, and I didn’t want to take any chances today of not getting to the finals, so I just ran.”
Jenna Prandini, 22.68, is also in the final.
“I definitely was relaxed in the straightaway and the whole goal is just to make it through the next round, so that’s what we did,” Prandini said.
Devon Allen won the men’s high hurdles in 13.03 ahead of Ronnie Ash, 13.21, the same time as Jeff Porter. Aries Merritt, who returned from surgery, was a close fourth in 13.22.