Justin Gatlin will put his undefeated 2014 record on the line one more time in the last Diamond League meet of the season.
“Traveling to Brussels I was thinking about my favorite football team that remained undefeated for a long while, but in the end they lost a game,” said Gatlin, who gave football a try during his doping suspension from 2006 to 2010. “I said to myself : Brussels is going to be my Super Bowl, and I definitely don’t want to lose my game Friday.”
Gatlin was slated to race the 100m and the 200m in a one-hour span in the Belgium capital, but he was no longer on the 200m start list when this story was published (update: Gatlin was re-added to the 200m start list Thursday afternoon). He is the fastest man over both distances this year, clocking 9.80 and 19.68 seconds, respectively.
Usain Bolt missed the early portion of the season after foot surgery, recorded two pedestrian 100m races (by his standards) and ended his year a couple weeks ago.
Bolt has said he wants to retire after the 2017 World Championships. Gatlin, who at 32 is four years older than Bolt, wants to compete beyond that.
“In London I wanted to win the Olympic title, but I made a technical error in the final that allowed Bolt to move two strides ahead,” Gatlin said. “In Rio [de Janeiro in 2016], I don’t want to make mistakes anymore. My idea is that I want to continue until 2020. As long as there are no young guys on the track who can beat me, I want to go on.”
In Brussels, Gatlin will face Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell in a meeting of the world’s fastest sprinters before Bolt began breaking records in 2008.
Allyson Felix, Galen Rupp and Jenny Simpson are also scheduled to be in action at the second of two Diamond League finals.
The finals are labeled that way because they mark the last competitions in individual event Diamond Races, accumulation points standings that determine season-long champions.
The Diamond League finals provide double the points than the previous Diamond League meets. That means first place per event in Brussels awards eight points, second place gets four points and third place two points.
Each of the 32 individual event Diamond Race winners receive $40,000 and a Diamond Trophy. Half of the Diamond Races concluded in Zurich last week. The other 16 conclude in Brussels (Universal Sports and UniversalSports.com, 2 p.m. ET).
Here are the start lists. Here are five events to watch:
Men’s high jump — 1:35 p.m. ET
This has been the most exciting event this season, thanks to world record attempts by Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Ukraine’s World champion Bohdan Bondarenko. Somehow, the 1994 world record set by Cuban Javier Sotomayor still stands.
Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov is also a threat to win in Brussels, though he cannot mathematically overtake Bondarenko or Barshim for the season title. Bondarenko leads Barshim by four points.
Men’s 100m — 2:15
Gatlin may be undefeated this season, but he actually trails countryman Mike Rodgers by one point in the Diamond Race. If Gatlin finishes in the top three and ahead of Rodgers, he will take the title.
Gay and Powell are also in the field, one week after they looked unimpressive in a 100m in Zurich. There, Powell was fourth in 10.07 and Gay last in 10.35. Powell and Gay, who vied for the world’s fastest man title seven years ago before Bolt emerged, both failed drug tests last year and sat out about 12 months.
Men’s 1500m — 2:53
The loaded field includes the two fastest men this year — Kenyans Silas Kiplagat and Asbel Kiprop — who are separated by one point in the 1500m season standings. Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman steps up from finishing second in the 800m in Zurich last week. American Galen Rupp steps down from taking third in the Zurich 5000m, joining countryman and Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.
Remember, Kiprop took a crack at the world record in Monaco on July 18, where he was beaten by Kiplagat. Kiplagat ran the fastest time in nearly 10 years that day. This is Kiplagat and Kiprop’s first meeting over 1500m since.
Women’s 200m — 3:04
Olympic champion Allyson Felix owns the Diamond Race lead by two points, but there are three women in this field who have run faster than her best time this year. Felix, coming back this year after a torn hamstring at the 2013 World Championships, has a season’s best of 22.34, a time she has bettered each of the previous 11 seasons.
The competition in Brussels will put pressure on Felix. It includes the fastest woman in the event this year, the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers, and Nigerian Blessing Okagbare.
Women’s 3000m — 3:46
This non-Olympic event includes a rematch of the most thrilling finish from Zurich last week. Jenny Simpson held off Shannon Rowbury in the 1500m by .01 on Aug. 28. They’re back at double the distance.
So are the Diamond League women’s distance standings leader Mercy Cherono (Kenya), the 3000m indoor world record holder Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia) and the fastest woman over 1500m this year, the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan.