ROME (AP) — Justin Gatlin came within 0.01 seconds of his world-leading time in the 100 meters, clocking 9.75 at the Golden Gala on Thursday.
Then the American declared he could approach Usain Bolt’s world record of 9.58 at the world championships in Beijing in August.
“I feel confident running times around 9.70,” Gatlin said. “9.60 should be possible in summer.”
With the wind in his favor, Gatlin finished several strides ahead of the rest of the field then flexed his biceps for photographers in the finish area.
Running strong all the way to the finish despite his lead, Gatlin took one tick off the clock from Bolt’s meet record of 9.76 set in 2012.
European indoor champion Jimmy Vicaut crossed second in 9.98, and Gatlin’s fellow American, Mike Rodgers, was third with the same time.
Gatlin clocked 9.74 seconds in the Diamond League opener on May 15 in the sweltering heat of Doha, Qatar. Only four sprinters have ever run faster, including Bolt, who set 9.58 in 2009.
“The key thing to keep winning is to not think about it,” Gatlin said. “I do not think of beating Usain Bolt now because the championship is not tomorrow. We still have some time.”
Also in the fourth stop of the Diamond League, Olympic champion Sally Pearson of Australia sustained a broken left wrist after hitting the fifth obstacle in the 100 hurdles. She will undergo surgery in Rome early Friday.
Organizers said Pearson was taken to the local Gemelli Hospital, and her manager, Sydney-based Robert Joske, later confirmed to The Associated Press that she sustained two fractures to her wrist and a dislocation.
“She’s been given pain medication, and is being seen by one of the top orthopedic surgeons in Rome,” Joske said on Friday. “What that means for the rest of the season, we don’t know. At least it’s not her legs. And she is a fighter.”
The world championships, where Pearson is defending champion in the hurdles, begin on Aug. 22 in Beijing.
American rival Brianna Rollins also failed to finish, while Sharika Nelvis of the United States won in a personal-best 12.52.
“I ran my own race and didn’t see any of those falls,” Nelvis said.
Emerging Cuban standout Pedro Pablo Pichardo leaped 17.96 in the triple jump to break Jonathan Edwards’ meet record of 17.60 set in 1998. Pichardo earned the year’s best jump of 18.08 last week.
Renaud Lavillenie won the pole vault at 5.91 but failed in three attempts to clear 6.01. He was far off his world-leading 6.05 in Eugene, Oregon, last weekend.
Two-time European champion Ruth Beitia of Spain beat a stellar field in the high jump at 2.00. Croatian standout Blanka Vlasic finished second at 1.97, and appeared content after three injury-plagued seasons.
Vlasic wiggled a little dance after clearing 1.94 on her third try then unleashed a fist pump when she made 1.97 on her first attempt.
Olympic champion Anna Chicherova settled for sixth at 1.94.
Jeneba Tarmoh of the United States won the women’s 200 in 22.77 after Olympic 100-meter champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce withdrew.
Also, Johnny Dutch won the 400 hurdles in 48.13, edging fellow American and Olympic silver medalist Michael Tinsley by 0.21.
The 17-year-old world junior champion Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia won the men’s 5,000 in 12:58.39, the year’s best time. And Mohammed Aman, another Ethiopian, clocked 1:43.56 in the 800 for another fastest time of the year.