Beijing: Sprint rivals Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin sailed into the semi-finals of the men's 100 metres at the world championships on Saturday.
Justin Gatlin competes in the heats of the men's 100 metres race at the 'Bird’s Nest' National Stadium in Beijing. Pic/AFP
Boos rang round a packed Bird's Nest in Beijing when Gatlin, who has served two doping bans, was introduced to the crowd over the loudspeaker.
But the 33-year-old American roared home in the fastest time of 9.83 seconds while defending champion Bolt, greeted with whoops at the stadium in which he took the world by storm at the 2008 Olympics, cruised home in a very comfortable 9.96.
Fast and furious
"Overall it was good," said Bolt, greeted as a returning hero when he was introduced before his heat and nodding his head to a Bob Marley tune pumping around the iconic arena. "I wasn't trying to run fast.
I was just trying to do as much as possible to get through the round. I know tomorrow, just watching the guys and how fast they're running, the semi-finals are going to be pretty fast," added the towering Jamaican.
Gatlin, 33, powered through to the line and pulled a pistol salute to television cameras after sending a clear message to his rivals.
"I was on the bus today and I thought about what time I was going to run and I was blank in my mind," said Gatlin, who has clocked the quickest time in the world this year of 9.74.
"When I get on the line I just try to execute as best I can. I just give it my all. I'm not going to lie. When it gets to the finals I'm going to go out there and execute my race and see what happens."
Eritrean teenager Ghirmay Ghebreslassie claimed the first gold medal of the Beijing world championships when he sprinted away for a shock victory in the men's marathon on Saturday.
The 19-year-old took the lead on the 36km mark and saw off pressure from Yemane Tsegay for a memorable win.