Justin Gatlin powers away in the 100m - London (Getty Images) © Copyright

PREVIEW - Men's 100m

Men’s 100m is looking very different now in late July than it did at the start of the season. The new World Record holder, Asafa Powell of Jamaica, will not compete in the World Championships 100m. Powell has suffered from groin injuries since he clocked the new WR 9.77 at the Olympic Stadium in Athens.

In Powell’s absence, the favourite in Helsinki will be another sprinter with good memories from Athens. Justin Gatlin of the United States won the 100m at the Olympics a year ago. Gatlin was in awesome form already in late June, when he took the rare sprint double at the US championships. He was the first man to win both 100m and 200m since Kirk Baptiste in 1985.

Gatlin’s races in Europe have confirmed his status as the favourite in Helsinki. At Lausanne, he was still a little off his best pace with 10.03. At the TDK Golden League in Rome he won with 9.96, and at the London Grand Prix, with 9.89. In London, he thought he was racing the World record holder, but Powell had to hobble back to the starting blocks after he hurt his groin again. That didn’t slow down Gatlin’s race. Gatlin’s strength is his strong finish, and in London he was almost flying towards the finish line.

Gatlin’s premier rivals can all give him a tough race in the final. At the Olympics, Francis Obikwelu was the man who got closest to Gatlin and took the silver medal. The Nigerian-born athlete represents Portugal, and he is a very experienced competitor. He has clocked 10.04 this season, but he has not yet had a perfect race.

The experienced Aziz Zakari of Ghana has been in good form with a season best of 9.99.

Trinidad and Tobago has a very strong duo for the 100m with 2003 World Championships silver medallist Darrel Brown and 2005 national champion Marc Burns. Burns clocked 9.96 winning time in the national championships in June and has been running well in Europe as well. Darrel Brown set a still standing World Junior record in the second round of the Paris World Championships with 10.01 result and finally was able to better that mark in the national championships as well with a 9.99 PB.

A new sprinter joined the sub-ten seconds club this summer. Roland Pognon of France ran a new national record of 9.99 at Lausanne with the assistance of a strong tailwind. Pognon is only 22 years old, and he took silver at the indoor European championships earlier this year. In Helsinki, the conditions may get cool, and that might be to Pognon’s advantage.

Even Shawn Crawford might offer a major surprise in the 100m. The American won the 200m at the Olympics last year. In Helsinki, because of injuries, he will only run the home straight. Crawford came second after Gatlin in the US championships and he was third in the 200m.

The third man representing the United States in Helsinki is Leonard Scott. He has obviously been successful in timing his form: at the London Grand Prix on July 22, Scott ran his PB of 9.94. Defending World champion Kim Collins of Saint Kitts and Nevis has been crafty with his timing as well. His time of 10.00 in the same race was his best this season.

Helsinki 2005 media team