Getty Images

Justin Gatlin reflects on career in ‘Rise Again’ documentary

Leave a comment

The heaving, uncontrollable sobs have occurred twice for Justin Gatlin. Once, for a failed drug test in his prime that led to a stay in track’s version of purgatory. The other, over a .01-second slipup that he’ll never get over.

Say this much for the controversial sprinter: His life has certainly been filled with peaks and valleys, which he reveals in an hour-long documentary titled “Rise Again — The Justin Gatlin Story.”

Gatlin reflects on his ascent to the top, a fall from grace after a 2006 doping ban that left him so depressed he contemplated wrapping his car around a tree and a return to the spotlight to become Usain Bolt‘s biggest adversary. Not to mention a race Gatlin would give anything to have back — the 100m at world championships in 2015, when he leaned too soon and Bolt beat him by .01 seconds.

“Life is fun. And it’s beautiful. But it’s cold. Cutthroat. Nasty,” Gatlin said in the opening sequence of a movie produced by Andrew Brereton and screened Thursday in Gatlin’s hometown of Pensacola, Florida. “I’ve witnessed both.”

Gatlin’s purpose in making the film was simple: Show fans and detractors what makes him tick.

“It’s a window into that kind of realm that no one has ever seen,” the 35-year-old Gatlin said in a phone interview. “A way for me to get that rawness out there.”

Following two gold medals at the 2005 world championships, Gatlin tested positive for excessive testosterone at the Kansas Relays in 2006. His dad signed for the certified letter from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and called his son.

The father simply comforted him.

After a long stretch of arbitration and court hearings, Gatlin received an eight-year ban that was later reduced to four.

During his exile, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion went through a wide range of emotions, including thoughts of suicide. He struggled to find work (he tried out for several NFL teams). He collected unemployment. His weight even ballooned so much that when he did return, he was kiddingly called “Dough Boy.”

“At the top, I was flying high. I didn’t understand what it meant to be down and out,” Gatlin said in the film. “What I went through in those four years, it makes me, in a way, a poster child. I’ve been to the top, to eat filet mignon, to have sweets, traveling around the world, having everything at your fingertips, to being embarrassed just to walk around in society.”

That’s exactly the emotion Brereton wanted to capture.

Brereton and his company, Neomotion Films, traveled around with Gatlin, shooting more than 80 hours of footage. The crew interviewed Gatlin’s parents, a string of coaches from over the years, agent/renown hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah, friends and family members.

The film producer was initially drawn to Gatlin’s story because usually when convicted dopers serve a lengthy ban, they don’t come back. If they do, they’re rarely faster than what they were. Before his ban, Gatlin tied a then 100m world record of 9.77 seconds, a run that came weeks after his positive test and has since been erased.

In 2015, Gatlin went 9.74.

“That throws a bigger monkey wrench into the situation, because people don’t know how to react,” Brereton said. “Their first reaction is like, ‘OK, something’s not right. He already has the history. I don’t believe it.’ But I always say, ‘Why don’t you believe?’

“They say, ‘Because it’s never been done before.’ I say, ‘So that means it can’t be done?’ … Track is interesting like that.”

Some of the movie’s intriguing scenes:

— As a kid, Gatlin used to outrace his friends — him on foot, them on bikes.

— His first love was hurdles in high school. He was so fast that one time in a 300m hurdles race, he opened up a big lead, saw a teammate fall down, went back to help him up and still went on to win the competition.

— Gatlin talked to kids all over the country about anti-doping on his return to track from his ban. “Some say he didn’t apologize?” Nehemiah said. “That was his apology tour — to all these kids that looked up to him.”

— At the starting line in races after returning from his ban, Gatlin said: “People saw me, and the look in their eyes was like they saw a ghost.”

The race that haunts him is that 100 showdown with Bolt in ’15. Gatlin thought that was his moment in Beijing, his race to win.

It wasn’t. He broke into tears on the ride back to his hotel.

“I could’ve run that race, that sloppy race, anywhere else in the world and still won,” said Gatlin, who captured Olympic bronze at the 2012 London Games and silver four years later in Rio de Janeiro. “I allowed myself to get beat and I beat myself. That’s the worst feeling in the world.”

Throughout the movie, Gatlin kept his composure. This, though, brought him to tears: Talking about his young son.

“In kindergarten, he’s drawing pictures of me on top of podiums, with medals on,” Gatlin said. “He loves me for me. He’s so proud of me. … It’s way better than being on top of 100 podiums.

“Way better.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: PyeongChang 2018 daily schedule highlights

South, North Korea agree to form joint Olympic team, march together

AP
Leave a comment

South Korea said the rival Koreas agreed to form their first joint Olympic team and have their athletes march together during the PyeongChang Olympic Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said the Koreas reached the agreement during talks Wednesday at the border village of Panmunjom.

It said athletes from the two Koreas will march together under a “unification flag” depicting their peninsula during the Opening Ceremony and will field a single women’s hockey team.

The measures require approval by the International Olympic Committee. The South Korean ministry says the two Koreas will consult with the IOC this weekend.

The two Koreas marched together behind a unification flag at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

North Korea boycotted the previous Olympics held in South Korea, the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988.

North Korea has no qualified athletes for the PyeongChang Olympics, but the IOC can invite athletes and could do so after this weekend’s meeting.

A pairs figure skating team qualified an Olympic quota spot for North Korea last fall, but the spot was given up after North Korea’s Olympic Committee did not accept the spot before a deadline.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Canada names Olympic Opening Ceremony flag bearers

Larry Nassar hears testimony at sentencing: ‘You are a repulsive liar’

Getty Images
1 Comment

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — One after one, gymnasts and other victims of a disgraced former sports doctor stepped forward in a Michigan courtroom Tuesday to recount the sexual abuse and emotional trauma Larry Nassar inflicted on them as children — one with the warning that “little girls don’t stay little forever.”

Nearly 100 women and girls planned to speak or have their statements read during an extraordinary four-day sentencing hearing.

Many of them cried as they gave the initial testimonies Tuesday.

Some requested that their identities not be made public. The judge consoled the victims and said they should not blame themselves.

“I testified to let the world know that you are a repulsive liar,” one victim, Kyle Stephens, said to the 54-year-old Nassar who bowed his head with his eyes closed or looked away as she and others spoke.

Stephens, the first to speak, said Nassar repeatedly abused her from age 6 until age 12 during family visits to his home in Holt, near Lansing.

She said he rubbed his genitals on her and digitally penetrated her, among other things. She said Nassar later denied it, and her parents believed him.

“Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don’t stay little forever,” Stephens said. “They grow into strong women that … destroy your world.”

Nassar has pleaded guilty to molesting females with his hands at his Michigan State University office, his home and a Lansing-area gymnastics club.

He also worked for Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Another statement came from Donna Markham, who told of how her daughter Chelsey killed herself in 2009, years after Nassar sexually abused her during a medical examination.

“It all started with him,” she said, describing her daughter’s downward spiral into drug abuse.

Victims described experiencing “searing pain” during the assaults and having feelings of shame and embarrassment.

They said it had changed their life trajectories — affecting relationships, causing them to be distrustful and leading to depression, suicidal thoughts and anger and anxiety on whether they should have spoken up sooner.

“He touched the most innocent places on my body,” said 17-year-old Jessica Thomashaw, recounting how she was sexually assaulted at ages 9 and 12. “I couldn’t be just a normal girl anymore, and I forever lost a big piece of my childhood due to his abuse.”

Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who is expected to order a sentence Friday, said the system had failed them.

“You shouldn’t be angry with yourself,” she told a 31-year-old victim, who said she was assaulted almost 20 years ago. “You went to him for pain and healing, and you didn’t know. No one faults you or any other victim for that. You were a child.”

The Michigan attorney general’s office is seeking 40 to 125 years in prison for the 54-year-old Nassar.

The maximum represents a year for each of the 125 girls and women who filed reports of abuse with campus police. He already has been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.

Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles on Monday said she was among the athletes sexually abused by Nassar.

Another gold medalist, Aly Raisman, tweeted Monday that she would not attend the sentencing “because it is too traumatic for me. My impact letter will be read in court in front of Nassar. I support the brave survivors. We are all in this together.”

Olympians McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas also have said they were among Nassar’s victims as teens.

In November, he admitted to digitally penetrating 10 girls, mostly under the guise of treatment, between 1998 and 2015.

As part of plea deals in two adjacent Michigan counties, he said his conduct had no legitimate medical purpose and that he did not have the girls’ consent.

Nassar is scheduled to be sentenced in Eaton County in two weeks.