Pensacola welcomes home Gold Medalist sprinter

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Pensacola welcomes home Gold Medalist sprinter
Photo by Barron Demons

By Barron Demons

From Woodham High School to the Olympic Games, Justin Gatlin reveals his journey to capture the gold medal, beating the legendary Usain Bolt.

Seville Quarters had the privilege of welcoming home the champion. Gatlin took pictures with friends and family before he took the podium to speak about how he was able to overcome many obstacles, before finally beating the man who has beat him throughout his career.

Before Gatlin went in depth about his race, he explained why this race was so special.

“I knew it was a recipe cooking because one, it’s Usain’s last year; two, because it’s Usain’s last championship and three, it’s going to be Usain’s last race,” said Gatlin.

Gatlin made it clear that he doesn’t get to race against Bolt very often, so he wanted to make the most of it.

“We only run each other once a year. I got one shot of beating this guy.”

Losing to Bolt twice during the last two championship races, Gatlin had to change his approach in order to finally become successful in achieving this seemingly impossible task.

Bolt, an eight-time Olympic Gold Medalist, had never lost a 100m(meter) race in his career, and Gatlin was determined to study why Bolt was so successful. Gatlin said it always came down to the last “10 to 20 meters” to determine the race. After realizing that and coming up with a plan, Gatlin decided to alter his ways to come out on top.

“I had to humble myself. . . I didn’t worry about being the fastest starter in the race, I just worried about being the first one across the finish line.”

Gatlin won a state championship while attending Pensacola’s Woodham High School. During his years at the University of Tennessee, he won six NCAA titles on the sprint team and helped the university win two NCAA titles.

He couldn’t be beat early in his career, but he lost something inside of him along the way to becoming a professional runner.

He didn’t have that same “fight” he had while beating everyone during his time in school. He had to dig deep within and find the fight that he once had. Once he did, he knew he would be ready to perform and do what it takes to become the fastest man in the world.

While in London, Gatlin knew he was in enemy territory. Even though Bolt hails from Jamaica, he is well-known and a very popular figure in London, and the crowd let it be known.

“I wasn’t the favorite pick in this race. I wasn’t the favorite in the stadium period,” said Gatlin with a smile on his face.

Before the final race, runners have to win in preliminaries in order to place for the final race. Gatlin was successful and moved to the final round and finally had his opportunity to shock the world.

The announcer called out the names of the runners waiting at the starting blocks for the race to begin. Bolt received his usual praise he gets when running in London, and Gatlin received an unpleasant welcoming.

“All the people that seen the race, you hear it.”

Gatlin was mentioning the boos he received during the prelims and for the final race.

“But you know what? I didn’t feel it. I was laser focused. . . I didn’t worry about it at all; rolled off my back like water.”

The gun sounded, and the final race began, symbolizing Gatlin’s last chance to dethrone Bolt.

“Half way through the race, I was sitting about 5th place.”

Gatlin received the 8th lane for the final race after running in the prelims.

“When I got to about halfway down the track, something told me, kick. I didn’t even think about it; I just went.”

Gatlin ultimately ran down Bolt and crossed the finish line inches ahead of him to take home the gold medal. He ran a 9.92 while Bolt finished with a 9.96.

“That race was for Pensacola, and that race was for America,” Gatlin said. “That race was for all of us.”