Cape Town - Five-time Olympic medallist and former sprint world champion Justin Gatlin believes South African athletics is on the rise.
Gatlin, 37, with former 400m hurdler and US athletics team manager Sharrieffa Barksdale, introduced the Born 2 Be Elite (B2BE) programme in association with Western Province Athletics in the city this week.
“I think there’s a lot more that can still be shown and a lot of young athletes who can still grow. That is why Born 2 be Elite is here to uncover that talent and be able to instil that in athletes and coaches,” Gatlin said.
Earlier this month, Gatlin was part of the US track and field team which dominated the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Qatar.
He won silver in the 100m in 9.89 seconds and was part of the US 4x100m relay team which clocked a world best of 37.10 to claim gold.
“I got injured two weeks before the world championships. There was doubt whether I was going to compete. I went out there to win the gold in the finals, but came home with a silver. I am still happy with that,” said Gatlin, who will be remembered for beating 100m and 200m world record holder Usain Bolt at the World Championships in London in 2017.
“Getting ready for the 4x100m, I got sick. I was running with a high fever. I had to suck it up and do it for my team.”
“It felt good to be on top again and being a world champion. Every year, I try to find something to motivate me. It can be something small like learning a new technique or a certain time you want to run within that year.”
When not racing around a track, Gatlin enjoys watching movies: “I love to be able to watch and dissect movies. It is like competing. You have to strategise and know when to put certain things into place. Everything has a structure to it as well as being entertaining.”
The B2BE programme is in partnership with the Athlete Development Centre and The Goodsport Trust. It will start in January and is a global sports programme aimed at identifying and monitoring athletes aged 12 to 17.
It will also help establish Africa as an athletic powerhouse by creating the next generation of athletes and coaches.
Darren Clark, director and founder of The Goodsport Trust, said: “The programme aims to fill the gaps in the current athletics development structure in CAA Region 5, specifically in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, as well as work hand in hand with the local athletics bodies.
“The founding belief of B2BE is that obtaining a quality education is the foundation to creating sustainable development. In addition to improving the quality of life, access to inclusive education can help equip individuals with the tools required to develop innovative solutions to the world’s greatest problems.”
A B2BE invitational try-out was scheduled for today at the Green Point Athletics Stadium. Athletes identified will be invited to a three-day training camp which begins tomorrow and ends on Tuesday at the same venue.
Barksdale said: “We are so excited to be here. It came about two years ago when Justin and I had a vision. We chose South Africa and they chose us. Sometimes you can’t mess with God’s plan. When God’s plan is around, we follow in his footsteps.”