Wayde will be back - and faster - says sprint star Justin Gatlin

11 October 2019 - 08:00 By CLAIRE KEETON
Olympic sprinter Justin Gatlin with kids in Langa, Cape Town, where he and former American hurdles record holder, Sharrieffa Barksdale, were promoting their athletic development organisation Born 2 Be Elite.
Olympic sprinter Justin Gatlin with kids in Langa, Cape Town, where he and former American hurdles record holder, Sharrieffa Barksdale, were promoting their athletic development organisation Born 2 Be Elite.
Image: Mark Fischer

One of the world’s fastest men, Justin Gatlin, says Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk will make a comeback – suggesting he will be even faster when he recovers from the injuries that have stopped him competing much since 2017.

“They will only make him stronger, they will make him faster,” said Gatlin, who was in Cape Town with former US Olympic hurdler Sharrieffa Barksdale on Thursday to launch their organisation Born 2 Be Elite.

They want to build a “speed community” in Africa, and globally, and have formed a  partnership with Western Province Athletics in Cape Town.

Born 2 Be Elite will help to train coaches and identify elite athletes to develop their full potential, at no cost.​

Gatlin, 37, who beat Usain Bolt in the Jamaican's final 100m race, said: “Wayde will inspire a lot of people because of his comeback.

“That is where a lot of people fall short: they do not understand about getting up. He will show [the world] about getting up from this fall.

“He broke an 'unbeatable' record,” said Gatlin, referring to when Van Niekerk broke Michael Johnson’s 43.18sec world record in 2016. “I have seen his hunger. This will not soothe his appetite.”

Gatlin, who won silver at the World Athletics Championships in Doha recently, was asked how his life would have been different without Usain Bolt.

“I think my neck would be broke from so many gold medals,” he laughed. “What Usain Bolt brought to my career, he helped me identify ... how to be a better athlete.

“I was relentless. I was not laying down, not just grabbing my popcorn to see the show. I wanted to be in the show,” said Gatlin, who said he was disciplined about training. “I gave him the fire to keep going.”

Barksdale, a former American hurdles record-holder,  said athletes did not wake up as champions. “You have to work hard. You have to put in the time. I had to perfect my craft to take it to another level.”

She said: “It is my vision to give back what was given to me. Why not South Africa, Africa itself?”

The Sunday Times has an interview with Gatlin and Barksdale on October 13


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