Maurice Greene and Tim Montgomery, look out. The United States has a new star sprinter -- and he's 21.
Justin Gatlin, competing overseas for the first time, underlined his reputation as track and field's latest sensation by winning the 60 meters today at the World Indoor Championships.
Gatlin followed his victory at the U.S. championships by outracing an international field in 6.46 seconds. He didn't have to beat the best, though: Greene and Montgomery sat the race out.
Still, it was a breakthrough win that establishes Gatlin as a potential challenger for Greene's world outdoor and Olympic 100-meter titles and Montgomery's world record in the 100.
"I have status now on the world level," Gatlin said. "This is a message for everybody, not just Maurice and Tim. I'm trying to show them that I'm out there and able to compete on the world stage now. Everybody should be listening."
Running in Lane 6, Gatlin was slightly behind Kim Collins of St. Kitts out of the blocks. Keeping his head down for the first 30 meters, Gatlin was in front by the time he rose. He pulled away to win easily, screaming, "Yeah!" as he crossed the line.
The meet marks his first trip out of the United States.
Collins was second in 6.53, with Jason Gardener of Britain third in 6.55.
Missing from the final was Terrence Trammell, who injured his hamstring in the opening heat and failed to qualify for the next round. He pulled out of the rest of the meet, ending his bid for an unprecedented double in the dash and 60-meter hurdles.
In the women's 60 dash, world outdoor 100 champion Zhanna Block of Ukraine led from the start and won in 7.04 seconds, the fastest time in the world in two years. Americans Angela Williams (7.16) and Torri Edwards (7.17) were next, with 42-year-old Merlene Ottey fourth (7.20).
In other finals on the first day of the three-day meet, Carolina Kluft of Sweden won the pentathlon with a meet-record 4,933 points; and Manuel Martinez of Spain won the shot put, beating defending champion John Godina of the United States by one quarter of an inch with a final throw of 69 feet 81/4 inches.
"It would have been easier to stomach if I had got beaten by a foot or more," Godina said.