The highlights of their best moments are always available on compact discs, perhaps even on real videotapes. When the teammates shout, “Hey, old man” – well, they know it’s for them.
At first glance, American Justin Gatlin and Jamaican Asafa Powell might look like relics from a bygone sprint era. In reality, they’re still in the mix – and not even a one-year postponement of the Tokyo Olympics is going to stop them.
“I’m ready for this year,” Powell told the Associated Press following the IOC’s announcement that the games would be delayed due to the coronavirus. “I must definitely be ready for next year.”
Make no mistake, they are running out of time.
Gatlin will be 39 when the Olympics finally arrive and Powell, who will be 38 in November, will head for the same number. The two men were starting to make a name for themselves on the track before a young phenomenon named Usain Bolt played their first Olympic Games. By the way, Bolt is 33 years old and is happily retired.
Gatlin and Powell are “Jeopardy” questions just waiting to be asked.
The last man to win an Olympic gold medal in the men’s 100m before Bolt? It would be Gatlin.
The last man to hold the 100m world record before Bolt? It would be Powell.
Gatlin won the Olympic Games in 2004. “It feels like five years ago,” he insists.
Powell set a world record in 2007 with a time of 9.74 seconds. Bolt overcame it less than a year later and eventually lowered the brand to its current position of 9.58.
Gatlin and Powell think they could make a different story in 2021. The oldest male 100-meter Olympic champion remains Linford Christie, who was 32 when he won the Barcelona Games in 1992, according to research by the historian Olympic Bill Mallon. As for the oldest Olympic medalist in this event, this distinction belongs to Gatlin, thanks to his silver medal at the Rio 2016 Games.
“It’s pretty cool to know that we can stay with these young guys while being competitive,” said Powell. “And be the ones you can count on for the gold medal.”
It’s not for laughs. Gatlin won a silver medal at the world championships last year. Powell, who is in good health after suffering from persistent groin tension and hamstring tightness, said he still did the same repetitions at the same rate as when he was younger.
It will not be easy for thirties. American Christian Coleman won 100 last season at the world championships in Doha and teammate Noah Lyles won 200. Canadian Andre De Grasse has won medals in both, and some consider him, not Gatlin or Powell, the main challenger. None will have reached their 27th birthday by the time the starter pistol fires in Tokyo.
“They are very talented,” said Gatlin. “But sprinting also comes with understanding and learning, wisdom and patience. These are all qualities that you get as you age. “
Life has changed for Gatlin, as it has for everyone, since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of gymnasiums and training centers across the country. He participated in grass workouts in Clermont, Florida, and watched many shows on Netflix.
And yet, there are so many things that have not changed.
Gatlin never really talked about retirement, so we never assumed it would be done, even after the 2020 Olympics ended. He may have thought he would hold out for 2021, when the championships of the world were to take place in Oregon – the first time they were contested on American soil. It would have been an appropriate shipment. But now, maybe this meeting will not take place before 2022.
These issues aside, Gatlin is a little more confident in knowing that he does not have to prepare for the Olympic trials in June or the Olympic track competition, which would have started in August.
“It’s now as usual,” said Gatlin, who returned to the track in 2010 after a four-year doping ban. “I don’t think a year will change anything. … I’m going to rest as much as possible.”
It’s the same plan for Powell, who was the most beloved male sprinter in Jamaica before Bolt – and perhaps also during Bolt’s reign.
“It’s different from not having (Bolt) around,” said Powell, who tested positive for a stimulant in June 2013 and received a ban which was reduced on appeal to six months by the Arbitration Tribunal for Sport . He later sued the manufacturer of the supplement and settled out of court. “He’s just a superstar.”
Despite his world record speed, Powell still lacks an individual gold medal at the Olympics or world championships.
Could 2021 be the year it finally broke through?
Only time will tell.
“I think it will be exciting to even try,” said Powell of the career extension. “Just the challenge and knowing that I have a lot of time to work on certain aspects of my game.”