NEW YORK — Justin Gatlin is the world 100m champion. Usain Bolt is the Olympic 100m champion and world-record holder.
So who holds the title of world’s fastest man?
“I would consider myself the world’s fastest man because I won the [most recent] title,” at worlds in August, Gatlin said earlier this month at the USATF Black Tie and Sneakers Gala. “But you have to pay homage to Usain Bolt. He has the fastest times in the world.”
Carl Lewis, a two-time Olympic 100m champion, agreed.
“The one who won [a global title] last is the world’s fastest man,” Lewis said. “That’s Justin. He was the last one to win it. You can’t go back two times ago.”
Gatlin has been busy since edging Christian Coleman and Bolt at worlds in London. He started the Justin Gatlin Foundation, which hosted its inaugural sprint clinic in Staten Island in September, and traveled around the country to thank supporters.
He pointed out that he will be considered the world’s fastest man until at least 2019; 2018 is the only year in the Olympic cycle without a global championship. Worlds are held in odd years.
“No matter how many races you lose,” Gatlin said, “you’re still world champion.”
Gatlin’s goal for 2018 is “just running fast.” He plans on entering fewer races but also competing in smaller meets in locations around the world he would not normally visit.
Gatlin, who finished second to Bolt in the 200m at the 2015 World Championships, is not sure whether he will continue to race that event. He has not since bowing out in the Rio Olympic semifinals. Coach Dennis Mitchell prefers he specialize in the 100m.
Gatlin, 35, still has his eye on Tyson Gay’s American record of 9.69 seconds. Gatlin’s personal best is 9.74, set in 2015.
“People always look at age as a factor, but I still feel young,” said Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion who served a four-year doping ban from 2006 to 2010. “I train with young people. I take care of my body. I’ve learned when to tap-out during races and practices. I think I’ve still got a good shot at running the fastest I’ve ever run in my life over the next three years.”
As reigning world champion, Gatlin is guaranteed a 2019 World Championships spot, additional incentive to continue sprinting.
“I’m already on the starting line, and I’ve got to train for that because I can’t throw that away,” Gatlin said. “Then I’ve got to squeeze 2020 out after 2019.”
Gatlin will be 38 in 2020, when the Olympics will be in Tokyo. He is already the oldest Olympic 100m medalist ever after finishing second to Bolt at the Rio Games at 34.
“In a perfect world,” he said, “I started my career with an Olympic gold medal, and I would like to end my career with an Olympic gold medal.”
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