EUGENE, Oregon - Controversial Justin Gatlin set the stage for a world championship showdown with Usain Bolt when he won the 200 meters in a blazing 19.57 seconds at the U.S. trials in Oregon on Sunday.
Only four people, including world record holder Bolt, have ever run faster than the 33-year-old, whose previous best was 19.68 seconds.
“I wanted to come out and make a statement, and that’s what I did,” said the fast starting Gatlin.
Training partner Isiah Young was second in 19.93 with the 30-year-old Wallace Spearmon taking third in 20.10.
The wind was an allowable 0.4 meters per second.
Gatlin, the year’s fastest at 100 and 200, had a bye in the 100 at the trials, but plans to challenge Bolt at both distances in the August world championships in Beijing.
They have not met since 2013 with Gatlin, who has served two doping bans, piling up a two-year unbeaten streak.
Olympic champion Jenn Suhr was equally dominate, soaring to the best pole vault performance of the year, 4.82 meters, and Jenna Prandini captured the women’s 200m in 22.20 seconds on the University of Oregon track where she competes collegiately.
Candyce McGrone and Jeneba Tarmoh joined her on the team for the world championships.
David Oliver showed he will be ready to defend his world 110m hurdles title with a dominant run of 13.04 seconds.
Ronnie Ash, world record holder Aries Merritt and Aleec Harris took the next three spots, giving the U.S. four hurdlers in Beijing since Oliver has a bye.
Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp, caught up in doping allegations involving his coach Alberto Salazar, made the U.S. team in a second event, the 5,000m.
Ryan Hill broke through to win in 13:50.69 with Ben True second in 13:51.09. Rupp finished third in 13:51.54.
Salazar has been accused in a BBC program and ProPublica story of giving Rupp the banned steroid testosterone in 2002 when Rupp was only 16, and encouraging athletes to misuse prescription drugs.
He has denied all the allegations but is under investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), a source told Reuters.
Rupp said, “I’ve got nothing to hide. I’ll do whatever I need to do to cooperate with them (USADA).”
But fellow distance runner Kara Goucher lashed out at a report Salazar issued denying the allegations.
“I understand if you read it through, it looks like I am a liar. I don’t like being labeled a liar,” an emotional Goucher, among those making allegations against Salazar, told reporters after her race.
She said she had been talking to USADA about Salazar since 2013 and would welcome a chance to testify under oath.
Editing by Andrew Both and Ken Ferris