RIO DE JANEIRO—Losing is one thing. Justin Gatlin didn’t expect he’d get booed at the Olympic 100-metre final, too.
“We all have respect for each other,” the American sprinter said of his fellow competitors. “I’d like to see everyone have respect in the audience, as well.”
Gatlin’s doping history—he’s served two bans—has always been a part of his rivalry with Usain Bolt. Sometimes, Bolt vs Gatlin has even been characterised as good vs evil.
When Gatlin walked out for the 100 final in Rio de Janeiro, the boos resounded around the Olympic Stadium because of that. He said he didn’t focus on them, and rather looked out at the red, white and blue US flags up in the stands. But the way he scrunched up his face when the crowd bellowed at him suggests he did notice.
As did Bolt.
“It was surprising. I’ve never heard, I’ve never seen it happen before,” Bolt said. “But I guess some people are more vocal than others.”
It was a bittersweet night for Gatlin—he won a silver medal—yet the race had been built up as a great chance for him to beat Bolt in an Olympic final. Greeted by those boos, Gatlin then saw Bolt race past him to an historic third Olympic title in the 100 metres. Surely hurting, the 34-year-old Gatlin put on a brave face.
“I have the utmost respect for Usain,” said Gatlin, who won Olympic gold at the 2004 Athens Games and bronze four years ago in London.
“Away from the track, he’s a great guy, he’s a cool guy, there is no rivalry between us. There is no bad blood. I’m a competitor, he’s a competitor and he has pushed me to be the athlete that I am today. I hope he can say the same for me.”
Bolt did that, too.
“I personally think he’s a great athlete,” Bolt said. “He shows up and pushes you to run fast and be at your best at all times.”