Golden Gatlin Sees Same Hunger In Spearmon

PHILADELPHIA -- Justin Gatlin knows what it's like to be Wallace Spearmon Jr.

Some day, Spearmon would like to find out what it's like to be Gatlin.

Just four years ago, Gatlin was a promising star at Tennessee who shocked the NCAA in Eugene, Ore., by upsetting 2000 Olympic 100 finalist Kim Collins of TCU in his specialty to win his first of six national titles.

Last August in Athens, Gatlin won gold in the 100 for the United States in the fastest Olympic final ever in 9.85, the second-fastest winning time in Olympic history.

Last June in Austin, Texas, Spearmon became the first freshman since Gatlin to win an NCAA sprint title by coming from nowhere to take the 200.

Two weeks ago at the Mt. SAC Relays, Gatlin got a good look at Spearmon while he ran a 19.97 over 200 to take the world lead, a spot he's held nearly continuously since posting a 20.35 in his first race of the indoor season.

Gatlin, who anchored USA Red to the win in the 4x100-meter relay (38.58) by just 0.02 seconds against USA Blue on Saturday at the 111th Penn Relays, saw something familiar in Spearmon.

"He has a lot of hunger," Gatlin said of Arkansas' 20-year-old sophomore who has an opportunity to do what the former Vol did and go professional after two years.

"I see a lot of hunger in his eyes. Right now, he's unpredictable. He has a strong 200 meter regimen behind him. I think he can do great things this year."

Gatlin and training partner Shawn Crawford stood up and took notice of Spearmon this indoor season when he broke Crawford's American and collegiate record in the indoor 200 twice at the NCAA Indoor Championships, lowering it from the previous 20.26 to 20.2 in the prelims and 20.1 in the finals.

Now that Crawford's mark is history, Gatlin said his collegiate outdoor 200 record of 19.86 set in 2002 at the Southeastern Conference Championships in Starkville, Miss., is in jeopardy.

"I'll be the first to say my collegiate record may be threatened by him," Gatlin said. "But records are made to be broken. More power to him. I hope he's successful in his career."

Spearmon saw a lot of Gatlin's back at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials as he made it through three of the four rounds before bowing out in the semifinals.

Gatlin said Spearmon, who admitted he didn't pace himself well through the rounds last July in Sacramento, Calif., must learn how to repeat his success through a series of races.

"What counts is, can you do it through all the rounds?" Gatlin said. ‘There's four rounds and anybody can run fast one time. Can you do it again and again and again? That's the most important part of the Trials."

Gatlin, who won the U.S. and World 60-meter titles in his first year as a pro at age 21, said there's no reason Spearmon can't follow the same path.

"Confidence, poise, patience," Gatlin said were the tools to survive multiple rounds of competition. "Young people can run fast, especially in this day and age.

"He's having confidence and poise, now he has to take it to the next level."

Gatlin saw those qualities at Mt. SAC.

"He did it almost to the point where it was effortless," he said. "He ran a good race. He looked confident like he knew what he was doing. He put a good race together and that's what counts.

"He showed everybody he's a 200 meter runner and he has the skills to be a champion."

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