Justin Gatlin didn't just win the 100 meters at the world track and field championships, he dominated it like no other sprinter in the meet's history.

The 23-year-old Olympic champion bolted away from the overmatched competition last night in Helsinki to win in 9.88 seconds, 17-hundredths of a second ahead of runner-up Michael Frater of Jamaica. The margin of victory was the largest in the 10 world championships that have been held since the meet's inception in 1983.

"I think it really stakes the claim that I'm the champion," Gatlin said. "I run like a champion. I show up big when it's time to show up big."

Gatlin got off to his usual slow start in front of a near-capacity crowd in the 40,000-seat Olympic Stadium, but let out a yell halfway through.

"I knew it was over," Gatlin said. "I had it. I knew that my stride length was unmatchable at that time."

Then he burst through the field in a blur.

The previous largest margin of victory belonged to Carl Lewis -- 15-hundredths of a second -- at the second world championships in 1987 in Rome. Ben Johnson originally won that race but was later stripped of his title for doping.

Gatlin's chief rival, world record holder Asafa Powell, watched from the stands after withdrawing with a groin injury.

Defending champion Kim Collins, who barely made the final, was third. Frater and Collins both were timed in 10.05.

Earlier, the heptathlon and men's discus ended in high drama.

Carolina Kluft of Sweden overtook Eunice Barber of France down the stretch in the 800 to win her 13th consecutive heptathlon. Kluft, who was bothered by a sore left ankle -- especially in the high jump -- won with 6,887 points. Barber, who led much of the competition, was second with 6,824.

Kluft's unbeaten streak dates from 2001 and includes a world championship in 2003 and an Olympic gold last year in Athens.

Two-time Olympic champion Virgilijus Alekna of Lithuania defended his world discus title, winning on the final throw of the competition with a meet record 230 feet 2 inches.

Two Americans accustomed to better days failed to make it to finals. Stacy Dragila, the 34-year-old pioneer of the women's pole vault, cleared 14-51/4 on her third and final try but it wasn't enough to advance. Shawn Crawford, out of condition after a foot injury stalled his training, was last in his 100-meter semifinal heat in 10.28 seconds.

The meet's first world record was broken when Olimpiada Ivanova of Russia won the 20-kilometer walk in 1:25:41.

Jamaica's Trecia Smith won the women's triple jump in a personal best 49-7.

-- From News Services

"I run like a champion," Justin Gatlin said after his win. "I show up big when it's time to show up big."