Gatlin powered to victory in 9.91 seconds

Monaco (AFP) - Veteran American sprinter Justin Gatlin scored one for the older generation by outsprinting up-and-coming compatriot Noah Lyles to victory in the 100 metres at Friday’s Diamond League meet in Monaco.

In balmy conditions, the 37-year-old Gatlin kept both his nerve and form after an average start to streak through the finish line in 9.91 seconds, just one-hundredth of a second ahead of Lyles, 21.

Lyles had been much vaunted coming into the race, having timed a breath-taking 19.50sec over 200m last week in Lausanne, making him the fourth-fastest sprinter ever over that distance.

But Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic gold medallist and current world champion who served a doping ban between 2006-10, was having none of it, rushing to take a selfie with a fan at the Stade Louis II as he blasted through the line in full knowledge he had won.

The result confirmed Gatlin’s good form on the Monaco track having run 19.6sec over 200m from lane seven in 2014 and a meet record of 9.78sec in the 100m in 2015.

“It’s all about putting together a good technical race, to use my experience,” said the wily Gatlin, who won world gold in London in 2017 ahead of fellow American Christian Coleman and now-retired Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt.

“It feels great to beat these guys. This season is surreal, I can’t believe I’m still winning here after more than 20 years.”

Gatlin added: “Noah is a great runner, so every time I race him, I’m excited!

“I transitioned very well in the middle of the race, I just kept focused as I knew Noah would be coming after me like a bat out of hell and held it through to the line.

“Put simply, you’ve got to compete and win the race.”

Gatlin played down any disappointment over the time, far from the meeting record of 9.78sec he set back in 2015.

“I know I can run faster and he’s run 19.50 so I know he can run faster,” he said.

Turning to his amazing longevity, Gatlin joked he was the “only old guy now! I mean, Noah was in high school two years ago”.

“It’s a hard feeling being the old guy,” he told AFP.

“But I’m surrounded by young athletes and they’re great people and they show me respect and I respect them back.”

Lyles wasn’t overly put out by his race, saying: “That was a good second place, so I’m not sad.

“It was a good run. My start was considerably better than other races and that makes me excited going to US trials.

“It could have been technically better but the way I started brings me a lot of confidence.”

Lyles was full of admiration for his older teammate, calling him “very impressive”.

“Let’s see how much running I do in my career,” he said when asked whether he could see himself running at the age of 37.

“I hope so, if i’m still enjoying it!”