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Gatlin outruns Cambridge, Sani Brown for 100-meter victory at Golden Grand Prix Kawasaki

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

American top sprinter Justin Gatlin withstood challenges from Japanese prospects Aska Cambridge and Abdul Hakim Sani Brown in a 100-meter race on Sunday at the Golden Grand Prix Kawasaki.

Gatlin crossed the finish line first with a time of 10.28 seconds with a 1.2-meter-per-second head wind at Todoroki Stadium.

“I’ve been plagued with a couple of injuries this season training. This is one of the first races that I came back,” Gatlin, 35, said after the meet, which drew 15,200 spectators. “I fairly feel good. My focus came back. I just had to put my race together today.”

Gatlin didn’t necessarily run in cruise mode because Cambridge, who was right in the next lane, stayed with the American until the end. Cambridge, 23, finished as the runner-up in 10.31 seconds.

“I’m disappointed with my time a little bit,” said Cambridge, who advanced to the semifinals in the discipline at last summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics. “I got stiff a little bit late in the race. I thought I could catch (Gatlin) but ended up getting stiff. That’s my issue that I will have to work on.”

Cambridge, who became a professional athlete this year and is considered one of the nation’s sprinters with the potential to break the 10-second barrier, said that the head wind made it harder to clock a satisfactory time. But the Jamaican-Japanese added that he would need to put up a better performance regardless of the weather conditions.

Gatlin, a five-time Olympic medalist, was actually given a little surprise by obscure presence Shuhei Tada, who finished third in 10.35, because the Kwansei Gakuin University student-athlete had a great start.

Sani Brown, a 18-year-old phenom who will start attending at the University of Florida this fall, was fourth in 10.42.

Gatlin pleasantly said that Tada was “the dark horse in the race” with his great reaction in the early portion.

“So by the time I came up, I had to be refocused and make sure that I stay with my race pattern,” Gatlin said. “I think me and Cambridge were able to come across the finish line first because we stayed with our race patterns.”

The 20-year-old Tada, whose personal best is 10.22, had the quickest reaction time at 0.131 while Gatlin’s was 0.147.

Sani Brown failed to have a quick start and it ruined his race.

“My race plan was to get off the blocks fast and pick up the speed, but I wasn’t able to do it,” Sani Brown said.

In the men’s 200, Canada’s Aaron Brown won in 20.62 seconds, followed by the United States’ Dedric Dukes. Kenji Fujimitsu was the top Japanese finisher in 20.93. Shota Iizuka, who was part of Japan’s silver medal-winning 4×100 relay team at Rio, had a mediocre race with a time of 21.10, placing fifth.

In the women’s 100, Ivet Lalova-Collio of Bulgaria finished first in 11.40. Chisato Fukushima was sixth in 11.64.

American Tianna Bartoletta, who captured two gold medals in Rio, competed in the 100 and long jump. She was third in 11.47 in the 100 and won the long jump with a 6.79-meter leap.

Men’s javelin thrower Thomas Rohler of Germany, who posted the second-best mark of all time (93.90 meters) at the Diamond League meet in Doha earlier this month, triumphed with a mark of 86.55.

“I felt pretty good to be able to compete surrounded by so many fans,” the 25-year-old said. “The temperature was a little too high, but I still threw over the 85-meter point and I feel good.”

In the men’s triple jump, China’s Wu Ruiting set a meet record (17.18 meters).

In the Paralympic disciplines, Jarryd Wallace, who finished fifth in last year’s Rio Olympics, won the men’s 100 (T44 class) with a time of 11.17.