Olympics tips: Gatlin mind games just fuel for Bolt to repeat sprint double
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | July 30, 2016
The bookies dare not look past the fastest man on earth for third consecutive victories in the men’s sprints at the Olympics, so neither should punters. Rated 8/15 to win the 100m and 4/11 in the 200m, Usain Bolt odds are well deserved.
Jamaican sensation Bolt has dominated sprinting since completing the first of back-to-back Olympics doubles at Beijing 2008, with his only blemish at a major competition since being a false start over the shorter distance during the 2011 World Athletics Championships in Daegu.
Smashing both world records in the sprints, setting those in 2009 at what many believe to have been the peak of his powers in Berlin, Bolt is the universally recognised face of track and field sport.
Gatlin mind games?
His feud with the USA’s Justin Gatlin has intensified, however, where Bolt bids to become an unparalleled three-time treble winner (including the 4x100m relay) at at the Olympics.
A hamstring injury forced Bolt to pull out of his national trials, but Jamaica have used their discretion, giving him a medical pass for these Games to allow title defences.
This prompted two-time drug cheat Gatlin to say in an interview to the US press: “That’s what his country does. Our country doesn’t do that.”
“I’ve proved I’m the greatest”
Bolt reacted to this tongue-in-cheek criticism from his rival, which echoed some from other quarters, by accusing him of disrespect.
“I’ve proved myself year on year that I’m the greatest,” Bolt said. “I laughed when I heard it; I was disappointed, especially in Justin Gatlin. I know the sport needs me to win and come out on top.”
Receiving criticism from Gatlin of all people may do nothing but fuel Bolt’s desire to beat him yet again. To go with his two Olympic doubles/trebles, he has won the 100m and 200m together at three World Championships.
How close can you get to Bolt?
Were it not for jumping the 100m gun in South Korea five years ago, Bolt would be a four-time double world champion in sprinting. He holds an incredible 18 titles from athletics majors, including a Commonwealth Games sprint relay crown picked up at Glasgow 2014.
Instead completing the third part of his hat-trick of World Championships sprint doubles 12 months ago in Beijing, the place where his path to athletics superstar status began at the Olympics before last, Bolt only defeated Gatlin by a hundredth of a second over the shorter sprint.
Based on how he performed around half a lap of the track in China, however, Gatlin (13/8 for the 100m and 7/2 for the 200m) has almost two-tenths to find on his Caribbean counterpart.
Gatlin not the only 200m contender with Merritt
It might be another American in 400m specialist LaShawn Merritt, who has set this season’s world lead time of 19.74 seconds over 200m, that Bolt has to contend with when running the bend at the Olympics.
Like Gatlin, 8/1 200m chance Merritt has previously served a drugs ban and, although this does little for his popularity or personal appeal with the betting public, he could be worth a punt because of his strength from usually racing double the distance.
Merritt and Gatlin, who has a season’s best of 19.75 seconds over 200m when winning the US trials, are doubling up on Bolt in that event, while Jamaican champion Yohan Blake is yet to rediscover the kind of form earlier in his career that pushed his fellow countryman to excel.
Back lightning Bolt to strike for third time
While France’s Jimmy Vicaut caught the eye at the London Anniversary Games, winning the 100m in 10.02, he will have to dip considerably under the fabled 10 second barrier to be in the mix.
Trayvon Bromell – joint third over the straight sprint in Beijing last summer – is another contender over that distance, while Panama’s Alonso Edward is a 200m outsider and Andre De Grasse of Canada will likely look to impress in both.
None of these candidates have the credentials and kudos of 29-year-old Bolt; their relative youth so far has yielded no real challenge. The betting value, therefore, is to back Bolt for yet another sensational sprint double success with third 100m and 200m titles at the Olympics.
You’ll find more athletics tips for the Olympics in the run-up to and during the Games on Coral’s dedicated page.