Justin Gatlin just tore The World to shreds in the 2018 Penn Relays’ edition of the USA vs. The World 4x100-meter relay race, creating enough separation in his second leg that the American squad could not be caught on their way to gold.
After dominating the race, the reigning 2017 world champion and five-time Olympic medalist took a few minutes to speak with The Daily Pennsylvanian on the field in an exclusive interview.
William Snow, The DP: Justin, on that second leg, you really left everyone else in the dust. How were you able to create so much separation?
Justin Gatlin: I’ve been working on my top-end speed back at home at practice, so everyone knows that I’m a starter right now, but I want to be able to show that I have that top-end speed as well. It’s tricky, because the relay is staggered, so you don’t know exactly where you are. So I was just thinking about making sure that if I was in lane five, I had to go out there and catch the guy in lane seven or eight. If I caught [the guy in lane] six, that’s okay, but I wanted to go out there and get two more lanes in front of me.
WS: What was the logic behind going second in the relay?
JG: You know, for so long, you had Usain [Bolt] on the end. He was their go-to guy to bring it home. At US Track & Field, they’re now looking to utilize that second position to make sure that by the time we get to the third leg, we’ll be able to maintain the position and have some distance going into the home stretch.
WS: I’ve seen you come to Penn Relays multiple times now. What keeps you coming back?
JG: Look around you! I mean, this. I came here in college at Tennessee, and it was something I really loved and always wanted to come back to. So, as a professional, I always wanted to come back here each year.
WS: How does this crowd stack up to all of the other huge meets you go to?
JG: It’s unique. It’s not really like measuring against a world championship crowd or an Olympic crowd — this crowd is its own. I mean, look to this community. You don’t get to go to Beijing or the Olympics and see Master’s athletes or grassroots athletes running out there as well. This is the only kind of crowd in America or in the world that’s gonna show you really what the community of track and field really is.
WS: Does it bother you that this crowd is so pro-Jamaica every time?
JG: No, no, no, no! You know I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve seen over the years that the pride of Jamaica has grown, but surely and slowly, USA has come out. You heard the USA chants. It gives us pride to come out here and go at it head-to-head. It’s a friendly rivalry, and it’s something that’s always gonna happen.
WS: When Usain retired, he said he was getting too old for this. You’re a couple years older than he is, yet you’re still winning. How have you kept going?
JG: I just listen to my body. My body says I have a couple more years, so I’m gonna stick it out. I don’t wanna be that guy that says, “I wish I could have done that” later.
WS: Thanks, Justin!
JG: Appreciate you, man.