© 2022 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Justin Gatlin Wants Last Olympics 'Moment' In 2021

Fernando Frazão/ Creative Commons

Sporting events were among the first casualties of the coronavirus outbreak, with cancellations and postponements at every level.

Even the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo had to be postponed.

This was to be Justin Gatlin’s final competition, and that’s still his plan if and when the games are held next year.

“It was never about the year itself; it was about the event and the moment,” explained Gatlin. This was his response to the many questions he’s received in reference to how the decision to delay the Olympics would affect his previously announced plans to retire at the age of 38, after his final Olympic race.

Credit Creative Commons
Justin Gatlin, London 2012

“I was looking to close a chapter of track and field in my life, you know, in an important year,” Gatlin in reference to Olympic years. “So, this time away from the sport, with the sport on pause, it actually gives me more time to rest the body, get any knick-knacks out of the way and actually mentally prepare myself for a season even better.”

Gatlin’s first, and best Olympic performance was at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.

NBC Sports announcer Tom Hammond captured the anxious moment Gatlin was introduced right before the 100 Meter Finals.

The details of Gatlin’s short bio show he was born in Brooklyn, New York, then moved to Pensacola at the age of 8. He won numerous spring championships at the University of Tennessee, “Now at 22, a chance to take Olympic Gold,” said Hammonds, before the public address announcer takes over. “In lane 3, representing the USA, Justin Gatlin!”

In 9.85 seconds after the gun, Gatlin won the gold in the 100m and later earned a silver in the Men’s 4 x 100m Relay.

A doping suspension forced him to sit out the 2008 Olympic Games. But, he returned and won individual medals in London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Now, after 16 years of competition at the professional level, Gatlin wants to go out on a high note.

He’ll be 39 years old when the next Olympics games are scheduled, which is old for a sprinter. But, he’s drawing inspiration from other veteran athletes – within and outside his sport - who are still performing at an elite level.

“I’ve looked to people like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, athletes who are defying the odds in their own sport. And, what they’re doing is they’re becoming more of a student of craft, and not just training hard, but training smarter.”

Gatlin says his level of fitness hasn’t changed much from year to year, so he expects competing at 39 won’t be much different from 38.

Credit Photo courtesy of Justin Gatlin
Justin Gatlin continues training, so he'll be ready whenever track and field events resume.

He says, for him, it’s about maintaining and staying strong, so he doesn’t get out of shape. He still trains 4-5 days a week near his home in central Florida and is finding new ways to do so amid the coronavirus guidelines.

“Got to stay with it and got to stay creative, ride bikes, go on runs, walks. I got a home gym, so I do stuff like that or taking up some kind of boxing, where it would be like more shadow boxing on Zoom or Skype,” he said with a chuckle.

One of the hardest parts for Gatlin might be trying to peak with his training, without knowing exactly when the next event will be held.

“Even though this is a year where it’s really not much going on, there are some meets out there looking to have meets toward at the end of the year,” Gatlin said with a level of optimism.

“So, we’re looking at probably August, September, October, if possible. So, it kind of has us in a limbo state, where we have to still train and still physically be ready just in case we have to compete at some level.”

When the gun goes off and track and field events resume, some of Gatlin’s main competition will come from fellow Americans Noah Lyles, who’s 22, and 24-year-old Christian Coleman, who edged out Gatlin for the gold at the 2019 World Championships.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.