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Justin Gatlin: US sprinter to compete in 2021, Tokyo Olympics

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Even before this week’s announcement that the 2020 Olympics would be postponed until 2021, the sand in Justin Gatlin’s competitive hourglass was running out.

The 38-year-old Gatlin, a five-time Olympic medalist and the reigning world champion in the 100 meters, had considered retiring after Tokyo. But now that the Games have been pushed back, Team USA’s most decorated male track athlete has 2021 on his mind. Along with coronavirus and social distancing.

This conversation was edited for clarity and length.

SI: Where are you now?
Justin Gatlin: Clermont [Florida]. Just orange groves and cows here…We’re in the country.

SI: What’s it like there? Are people walking around? Staying indoors?
JG: The hardest hit places are the major cities. Orlando and Orange County are going on a mandated shutdown tonight, I think. Clermont is in a neighboring county, Lake County, so we’re not on mandated shutdown yet. Restaurants are open to go pick up food or have food delivered. There’s not as much traffic as usual. You can notice it even in a small town like Clermont.

SI: How do you feel about social distancing?
JG: At first I was thinking with my athlete hat on. I had to take it off. As an athlete you have to think about yourself a lot. Think about your body, think about your mind, staying healthy, staying strong, your goals. So it’s always about me, me, me, me. I’ve had to realize: this is affecting the world.… My parents are in their 70s. My son has asthma. These are the things I think about, but I’m also thinking outside my family. I think it’s the best decision right now not to have the Olympics, to postpone them, push them back. People who love the sport [and will travel to see the Games in person], you don’t want to put them in danger.

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