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Event Report - Men 200m Final

Gatlin grabs second gold in US sweep

After easing through the semi-finals yesterday, 100m champion Justin Gatlin told reporters that “The Helsinki Gods are on my side right now.” He must have prayed extra hard to them last night for the Olympic bronze medallist turned in a performance of utter dominance to win the 200m final tonight, becoming only the second man in world championships history to take the sprint double.

It was billed as a battle between four Americans but few were prepared to predict which one would take the gold. It was meant to be close, for goodness sake. But Gatlin was having none of it as he strode away from his compatriots Tyson Gay, John Capel and Wallace Spearmon over the last 50 metres to win by two metres in 20.04 – and he had time to slow down over the last few strides.

Gatlin joins Maurice Greene as a double world sprint champion – Greene did it in Seville in 1999 – while his margin of victory equals the biggest ever in a 200m final. Gatlin now has his sights set on a 4x100m gold. “Now its two golds down, one more to go,” he said.

Spearmon, the fastest man in the world this year, took the silver in 20.20, while defending champion Capel clinched the bronze with his best time of the year, 20.31. Gay missed a medal by three hundredths of a second.

This was the first ever medal sweep at a world championships in this event, never mind the first 1, 2, 3, 4. The previous best was when four Kenyans competed in the steeplechase final in Seville in 1999, finishing 1, 2, 5 and 7. There were also four Americans in the 110m hurdles final in Paris two years ago.

“We are big Americans,” beamed Capel. “I am just happy to be part of something great.”

The four Americans filled the middle four lanes, with Spearmon in three, Capel, wearing heavy dark shades in four, Gay, looking nervous, in five, and Gatlin on the outside.

But at the gun it was Germany’s Tobias Unger in lane two who got the best start, flying out of the blocks and making up ground on Spearmon within the first 50 metres. He and the Americans entered the straight almost in a line, with Gatlin just beginning to edge ahead.

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt was doing remarkably well in lane one, just half a stride behind. But Bolt’s bolt was shot 60 metres from home when he pulled up injured. Unger began to feel the pace and faded. While in lane six, Gatlin simply lengthened his stride and opened a major gap. He was clearly the winner with 20 metres to go and could afford to stick his chest out in triumph two strides from home.

Surely that gesture cost him a sub-20 second time, not that he’ll care about that. Gatlin threw his arms wide before falling to the track on bended knee.

Spearmon edged ahead of Capel to win a silver despite only finishing fourth at the US championships – he only made the team when Shawn Crawford dropped out. And Capel held off Gay for the bronze – he was only in the team because of his status as a reigning champion.

Gay had been the fastest man in the all the preliminary rounds but missed out on a medal. Stephan Buckland, who finished fifth, equalled the best ever place for an athlete from Mauritius.

The four adopted their customary post-race huddle before grabbing the stars and stripes for a victory lap. Gatlin, whose win was wildly cheered by the home fans, also waved a Finnish flag.

“Justin is a great athlete,” said Gay. “When he is in the zone he is really hard to catch.”