Reigning world 100m champion Justin Gatlin has joined the list of star athletes who will be competing in the inaugural edition of Athletics SA's (ASA) Athletix Grand Prix Series next month.
The 35-year-old U.S. sprinter will take part in the rarely run 150m event at Tuks Stadium in Tshwane on 8 March, ASA confirmed on Thursday.
This will be Gatlin's first competitive run of 2018.
A new event for Gatlin
The Athletix Grand Prix will be the first time Gatlin has run a competitive 150m.
"I have obviously done 150s in training, but have never raced over that distance before. It will be interesting to see how I do. It is also my first race of the season, which adds to the excitement for me," ASA quoted Gatlin as saying.
The U.S. star will become the biggest name to compete on South African soil since Michael Johnson did so in 2001.
Boost for SA Athletics
ASA’s president, Aleck Skhosana, said in a statement that hosting leading figures such as Gatlin is great for athletes in South Africa.
"Having Justin Gatlin running in South Africa is a big coup for us," Skhosana said. "We have such incredible depth in the sprints in South Africa. To have an athlete of Justin Gatlin’s calibre compete here against our athletes means that the world sees us as a major contender in the sprints.
"It also brings other great benefits, as it inspires other aspiring sprinters and beyond. It also inspires coaches to produce the calibre of sprinters along the likes of Gatlin and Akani Simbine."
The U.S. sprinter has experienced a revival in his career, after he received an eight-year ban from track and field in 2006 for a failed drug test.
Our athletes have lit up the global stage, now it’s time for the nation to celebrate our golden generation on home soil!— Athletix Grand Prix Series (@AthletixGP) 8 February 2018
The first meet is on 1 March 2018 at the Ruimsig Athletics Stadium.
Follow the link to find out more > https://t.co/c8VBmd5uGA #AthleticsMagicMeets pic.twitter.com/BXVXlRps48
In 2007, after cooperating with doping authorities, his ban was reduced to four years.
Last year, Gatlin surprised many at the IAAF World Championships by winning gold with a time of 9.92 seconds, beating U.S. team-mate Christian Coleman, who claimed silver, and Usain Bolt, who took bronze. This was Bolt's last World Championships race.
The Athletix Grand Prix, a three-leg track and field competition, will take place in Johannesburg (Thursday, 1 March), Tshwane (Thursday, 8 March) and Paarl (Thursday, 22 March).
Aside from Gatlin, top African athletes Simbine, Caster Semenya, Joshua Cheptegei and Anaso Jobodwana are also set to compete.
Some #motivation to get you over the #midweek slump! #MidweekMotivation— Athletix Grand Prix Series (@AthletixGP) 7 February 2018
Less than a month to go for start of the Athletix Grand Prix Series. Tickets go on sale on 14 February 2018. Follow the link to ensure you don't miss out > https://t.co/c8VBmd5uGA #AthleticsMagicMeets pic.twitter.com/lo28xGtfLW