A few minutes after Usain Bolt confirmed he’s still the world’s fastest man by winning the 200m at the World Championships on Thursday night, top challenger Justin Gatlin saw the Jamaican sitting on a dark folding chair on the crest of the Beijing Bird’s Nest track.
Gatlin, the best sprinter the last two years (before Bolt beat him in the 100m and 200m in Beijing) who served a four-year doping ban and has been billed as evil to Bolt’s good going into these World Championships, saw a tan bench, grabbed the seat and pulled it some feet to within arm’s length of Bolt.
Bolt, with a Jamaican flag draped over his left knee and holding green shoes in his left hand, noticed Gatlin approaching him. Bolt smiled.
Bolt extended his right arm across his body as Gatlin entered the picture, with an American flag in his left hand, and held out his right arm. They fived and shook hands. Bolt and Gatlin sat and spoke in spurts for 30 seconds while photographers captured the meeting from in front of and behind them.
Once both were sitting, Bolt appeared to speak first.
“He said, ‘I’m tired, my legs on fire,’” Gatlin later told Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports. “I said, ‘I’m tired, my legs on fire, too.’”
As Gatlin untied and removed his Nikes, Bolt rose from his chair to continue his victory lap, striding away from Gatlin.
“He talks a lot, I’ve noticed over the years, but that’s just who he is,” Bolt said of Gatlin in a press conference later, drawing a smile and laugh from Gatlin sitting to his right. “I’ve noticed that leading up to the championships he’s going to say a lot of stuff, but after the championships, he confuses you. You feel like he’s your best friend.”