We’ll learn in a few weeks’ time whether Justin Gatlin will pay a heavy price for poking the bear that is Usain Bolt.
The rival sprinters have engaged in a low-intensity war of words ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, according to Agence France Presse.
A hamstring injury prevented Bolt from competing at Jamaica’s Olympic trials, but he received both a medical exemption and a place on the team plane to Brazil anyway. The decision prompted Gatlin and other USA sprinters to suggest Jamaica has shown favoritism towards Bolt.
“At the end of the day, when you command a certain power in track and field, sometimes you can exercise it,” Gatlin said earlier this month. “That’s what’s happening right now — he’s injured, he has a medical pass, that’s what his country does.”
Bolt, a six-time gold medalist and the world’s fastest man, forcefully responded Friday, accusing his American rival of disrespect.
“For me, I felt it was a joke. I felt it was a disrespect they think I’d back out of a trials,” Bolt said. “I’ve proven myself year on year that I’m the greatest. I laughed when I heard it, I was disappointed, especially in Justin Gatlin.”
Gatlin, 34, and Bolt, 29, are leading contenders to win Olympic gold in the 100-, 200- and 4×100-meter relays. What happens between them on the track will help define the Rio Olympics, and this public spat provides a fitting backdrop.
Thumbnail photo via Matt Kryger/USA TODAY Sports Images