The Race to Rio: Gatlin lays down a marker for Bolt in 100m

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Every four years it becomes the cherry on the Olympian cake and this year’s 100m event in Rio is set up to be a cracker, after Justin Gatlin sounded out another warning for reigning champion Usain Bolt.

The American fired out a 9.88 to win the 100m last weekend at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting in Eugene, Oregon – the fastest time this year.

Gatlin has also run 9.94 this year, in May’s IAAF World Challenge meeting in Beijing, while Bolt – still the world record holder from his amazing 9.59 in Berlin in 2009 – can only boast a 9.98 season-best.

Bolt is 1/2 for a third-straight Olympic 100m Gold, with Gatlin 2/1. Such is the expectation of a two-horse race in Rio, Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake are next in the betting at 16/1.

Despite Gatlin twice posting quicker times than Bolt this year, there’s more to this than meets the eye.

The Jamaican traditionally handpicks a few events to run at each year, while Gatlin prefers more regular racing during the season.

But it was less than 12 months ago when the rivals last met, and at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, Bolt prevailed. Twice.

The 200m saw the 29-year-old produce an utterly breathtaking performance to defeat his foe by a huge margin, but the 100m was a much closer affair.

Gatlin flew out of the blocks, but Bolt clawed it back stride-by-stride to take the win by 0.02.

Some will correctly point out however, that Gatlin severely tightened up in the final 40 metres, so what would the outcome be if both ran flawless races?

Perhaps we will find out in Rio…

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Richard Marsh

Richard loves his sport, especially if it involves the sound of tyres screaming around a race track. He's not fussy though and his '90s Premier League nostalgia and knowledge of team nicknames is tough to match.