Rivals respect me, insists beaten Gatlin
Track and field’s pantomime once again played second fiddle to Bolt as the Jamaican superstar romped to his third successive 100m title in Rio on Sunday but denied the catcalls had thrown him off his stride.
“I haven’t really focused on the boos, you have to dial that kind of stuff out,” said the American, who had been looking to become the oldest man to win the Olympic title.
“At the end of the day, you hear everything, but you have to tune that kind of stuff out,” added the 2004 Athens gold medallist after clocking 9.89 seconds to trail Bolt eight hundredths of second.
“There’s a lot of Usain Bolt fans, a lot of Jamaican fans but they don’t know me, they don’t know Justin. I work very hard and I have the respect of my competitors.
“Going into the call room, (bronze medallist) Andre de Grasse, Trayvon (Bromell), we wished each other well — even Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt himself. To be able to have the respect of my rivals who I line up with, that’s all I really care about.”
Even Bolt expressed surprise over the jeers Gatlin was subjected to when the athletes were introduced to the Brazilian crowd.
“It was surprising,” he shrugged. “I’ve never seen it happen before, but I guess some people are more vocal than others.”
– Coup attempt –
Bolt had brutally ended Gatlin’s attempt to usurp him as the king of sprinting at last year’s world championships and the American paid tribute to his great rival after his latest defeat.
“Guys, I have the utmost respect for Usain,” said Gatlin. “When he comes away from the track, he’s a great guy, he’s a cool guy. There is no bad blood between us.
“I’m a competitor, he’s a competitior and he has pushed me to be the athlete that I am today.
“I hope he can say the same for me. When it comes to it, I guess I’ve given him his closest races in all his career, so to be able to say that at the age I’m at right now, it’s a true honour, guys.”
As in Beijing last summer, Gatlin put a positive on the result after falling short once more, despite once again being the man in form coming into the Games.
“Man, at the end of the day being the oldest guy in the field and to say I’m going to be the oldest guy to get on the podium, it’s a victory within itself,” said the 34-year-old.
“Usain rises to the occasion when needs be and it’s just an honour to be part of history.
“When I crossed the line I looked up at the screen because I had tunnel vision and I didn’t even know where I was placed at so to see that I was second, I was honoured with that.”