Gatlin, the 2017 world 100m champion and the fifth fastest ever human being in the 100m and 200m, will line up in the men’s 150m race at Tuks Stadium (Tshwane) on Thursday March 8 in the second of the three series meetings.
The 35-year-old has astoundingly never run a competitive 150m, so this will be a new experience for both him and for South Africans alike.
“I have obviously done 150’s in training, but have never raced over that distance before. It will be interesting to see how I do. It is also my first race of the season which adds to the excitement for me,” said Gatlin.
The USA star spoilt the retirement party of Usain Bolt in 2017 when he dipped countryman Christian Coleman and Bolt, to win his first global title since 2005, testimony to the longevity of his career.
He ascribes his ability to stay at the top to his ongoing work on his technique. A glance at race videos of the last four years will show just how much his technique has improved, coming as close to perfection as possible.
In 2015 Gatlin set a world lead in the 100m when he broke his previous best of 9.77sec to clock 9.74sec for the win at the Diamond League in Doha on 15 May. This is also his best time ever and sits 5th on the World All Time lists. That same year he would run times of 9.75sec twice.
Gatlin was so dominant in 2015 that the only race that he was beaten in was the 100m final where his arch rival, Usain Bolt, again snuck victory from him at the World Championships. The margin of victory was a mere 1/100th of a second. Only Bolt was able to run faster than him in the 200m in 2015.
Gatlin’s 19.57sec in Eugene on 28 June was 2/100th of second slower than Bolt’s 19.55sec. It is also the fifth fastest time ever run.
To date Gatlin has run an incredible 55 times under the 10 second barrier, a feat very few can boast of. He has also gone under 20 seconds seven times in the 200m.
“Having Justin Gatlin running in South Africa is a big coup for us,” said Aleck Skhosana, president of Athletics South Africa (ASA).
“We have such incredible depth in the sprints in South Africa. To have an athlete of Justin Gatlin’s calibre compete here against our athletes means that the world sees us as a major contender in the sprints.
“It also brings other great benefits as it inspires other aspiring sprinters and beyond. It also inspires coaches to produce the calibre of sprinters along the likes of Gatlin and Akani Simbine.”
Athletix Grand Prix Series 2018:Thursday, 1 March: Ruimsig Stadium, Johannesburg
Thursday, 8 March: Tuks Stadium, Tshwane
Thursday, 22 March: Dal Josafat Stadium, Paarl