Gatlin, Bolt on course for showdown in 100 meters at worlds

BEIJING (AP) Who would bet against Usain Bolt in the 100-meter final at the world championships? Looks like lots of folks.

Believe it or not, Justin Gatlin became the favorite in the London betting parlors after his scorching time of 9.83 seconds in the first round.

Gatlin insisted he wasn't sending any message to Bolt. He's just running that fast these days.

And Bolt is working his way back up to speed - though tuneup time is over with the semifinals and final set for Sunday. In his heat on Saturday, the Jamaican had a mediocre start and his technique early in the race appeared a little ragged. Still, he won in 9.96, one of eight to finish under the 10-second barrier.

He just didn't win as convincingly as Gatlin.

''I wasn't trying to run fast,'' Bolt said. ''I was trying to do as much as possible just to get through the rounds. ... I was just trying to execute and save as much as possible.''

For two years, Gatlin has been winning every 100 race he enters. But none of those have featured Bolt, the world-record holder who always saves his best for the biggest of stages.

''You can't ever count Bolt out,'' said Maurice Greene, the Olympic gold medalist in the 100 at the 2000 Sydney Games. ''He's a competitor. He's a champion. He's definitely not coming here to take second. You know he's going to come out and be prepared.

''And that's what everybody is wanting to see - how prepared Bolt's going to be. Because we know Justin will be prepared.''

The anticipated showdown between Bolt and Gatlin has been widely portrayed as ''Good vs. Evil.'' Bolt is that fun-loving sprinter, who draws his share of the spotlight for his theatrics after a win. Then there's Gatlin, who served a four-year doping ban.

''I'm not trying to win any popularity contests or win anybody over,'' the American recently said. ''I'm trying to do what I'm supposed to do. Hopefully, my actions on the track will show that, to the people that really care. That's all that really matters.''

Lurking in the shadows behind those two could be a surprise winner. Asafa Powell, perhaps? Or maybe Tyson Gay? Both of them won their heats.

Don't count out Churandy Martina of the Netherlands, either. He likes his chances.

''Got to be there so I can take that bone when the other two dogs are fighting for it,'' Martina said, smiling.

Here are some things to know about Day 2 of world championships:

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ALMOST HOME

Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill of Britain holds a slim lead after the opening four events of the heptathlon. She's 80 points ahead of teammate Katarina Johnson-Thompson heading into the final day.

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FRASER-PRYCE IS RIGHT

Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce gets her title defense started Sunday in the opening heats. Fraser-Pryce has three of the top-five fastest times in the world this season. American teammates Tori Bowie and English Gardner could be Fraser-Pryce's biggest threats, along with Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria.

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THE LONG WALK

The race walk is usually an event that's overshadowed, but it has drawn all sorts of scrutiny lately after a scandal in Russia. More than 20 of race-walking coach Viktor Chegin's athletes have been banned for doping in recent years, with four Olympic gold medalists sanctioned since last year alone. The Russians have won the men's 20-kilometer event at the last three worlds. But the country has no one entered in Sunday's race.

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SHOT IN THE DARK

The gold medal in the shot put figures to be between David Storl of Germany and Joe Kovacs of the United States. They're the only ones to throw more than 22 meters this season. Kovacs has gone over that mark four times in 2015.

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HAMMER TIME

Pawel Fajdek doesn't lose often in the hammer throw. According to the IAAF, the defending world champion from Poland is 15-0 at competitions since March. His last loss was to Hungarian rival Krisztian Pars, the runner-up at the last two worlds.

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