Justin Gatlin is all alone at the finish line of the 200 at Hayward Field, in 19.57 seconds // Getty Images

Justin Gatlin is all alone at the finish line of the 200 at Hayward Field, in 19.57 seconds // Getty Images

Track and field

Justin Gatlin: flag-bearing ray of sunshine?

EUGENE, Oregon — The weather forecast Sunday for the cathedral that is Hayward Field promised patches of sunshine. So apt. The U.S. team now heading to Beijing for the August world championships could be, may well be, the best-ever. Don’t say 30 medals. But, you know.

At the same time, can this team, this sport run away from the storm clouds? Say Justin Gatlin. Say Galen Rupp. You know.

Justin Gatlin running away with Saturday's 200 at Hayward Field // photo courtesy USATF

Justin Gatlin running away with Saturday's 200 at Hayward Field // photo courtesy USATF

Track and field

Can Justin Gatlin be a hero?

EUGENE, Oregon — It was 40 years ago Saturday — May 30, 1975 — that Steve Prefontaine crashed his gold 1973 MGB convertible on a curve here on Skyline Boulevard and died. He is by now legend, myth, icon and the man that America wants its track heroes to be.

By all rights, amid this year’s running of the Prefontaine Classic, the guy who should be America’s track and field hero is Justin Gatlin. He won the 200 meters here Saturday in 19.68, eighth-fastest in history, a meet record. Gatlin’s challenge is not what he does between the lines. It’s what he says when he’s not performing. And how he handles himself, and his doping-related past.

Ben Blankenship of the United States winning the distance medley relay // photo Getty Images and IAAF

Ben Blankenship of the United States winning the distance medley relay // photo Getty Images and IAAF

Track and field

Hey, maybe USATF is building something big!

NASSAU, Bahamas — At a team meeting Friday night, before this second edition of the IAAF World Relays got underway, Dennis Mitchell, one of the American team coaches, urged the U.S. runners to consider that each of them was a hammer and this, these Relays, was a construction project. Use your hammer, he said. Build something big.

That they did.

Tyson Gay, left, with Mike Rodgers and Ryan Bailey after winning the men's 4x100 relay // photo Getty Images

Tyson Gay, left, with Mike Rodgers and Ryan Bailey after winning the men's 4x100 relay // photo Getty Images

Track and field

Tyson Gay and the power of forgiveness

NASSAU, Bahamas — What to make of Tyson Gay? Do you think that a mistake — an error that clearly is weighing on the man — ought to follow him around forever, ought to mark him as a cheater until the end of time, ought to drag him down and cast him out as an exile from among the others in track and field, a sport in which time has proven sanctimoniousness is altogether risky business?

Or do you believe in second chances? In the power and spirit of forgiveness? Isn’t the glory and grace of the story of the United States of America this very thing — that we all make mistakes and yet each and every one of us gets a second chance?

Usain Bolt running Saturday in the World Relays // photo Getty Images

Usain Bolt running Saturday in the World Relays // photo Getty Images

Track and field

Bolt gets crowd love, a dose of U.S. “respect”

NASSAU, Bahamas — It’s better, as the saying goes, in the Bahamas. They held the first edition of the IAAF World Relays here last year, to resounding success, such success that they resolved to do it all over again.

They needed just one more thing, really, to make the show even bigger and better, the biggest star of them all, the guy who is, more or less track and field in these first years of the 21st century, and when Usain Bolt took the baton and kicked it into gear on the blue Mondo track, you would have thought Thomas A. Robinson Stadium was going to lift off into the moonlit sky.