Sprinter Williams has passion back

EUGENE — Tired and burned out of track, sprinter Lauryn Williams went searching for thrills of adventure over victory.

To rekindle her waning passion, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist tried sky diving and snow skiing along with retracing her family's roots with a trip to Trinidad.

The rush of those experiences snapped Williams out of her rut and got her head back into the sprint game.

Stepping away from the sport is no longer a consideration for the 27-year-old Williams, who's entered in the 100 and 200 at the U.S. championships this weekend.

She's all in as she sets her sights on making the team for the 2012 London Olympics.

First, though, she had to make sure the drive still remained, which is why she dabbled in thrill-seeking activities during breaks last season in a year that featured no major meets.

"I took a step back from track, to give myself a chance to miss it, to miss competing," Williams said in a recent phone interview.

She enjoyed sky diving, but for someone so used to speed, the experience wasn't all she was expecting.

"The guy pushes you out of that plane, you can't breathe for a second and you're going down. That's it," she said. "(The rush) lasts like 10 seconds."

That's about the same amount of time it takes Williams to motor down the track in the 100. Her best time in the 100 is 10.88, a mark she sent in 2005.

She knows that's far from good enough to keep up with the field these days. Fellow American Carmelita Jeter has turned in the fastest time of this era, clocking 10.64 seconds in 2009. Only the late Florence Griffith-Joyner has run faster (10.49).

Not only that but the balance of power on the women's side has considerably shifted over the last three seasons, with the Jamaicans becoming the ones to beat.

"The 100 is very stacked, really a deep event right now," Williams said. "So when you think you've worked hard enough, you've got to work even harder."

And incorporate some wrinkles into the workout regimen. That's what led Williams to take up the hurdles, a way to increase her acceleration and power as she hops, skips and walks over the obstacles.

"If I see one more hurdle, I'm going to rename myself Lolo Jones," the diminutive Williams said, chuckling at the reference to the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials champion.

But don't expect an event switch.

"There are no hurdles in my future!" she said.


GATLIN'S RETURN: A case of strep throat along with nagging hamstring and quadriceps ailments weren't about to derail Justin Gatlin's return to nationals after a long absence due to a doping ban.

The injuries and illness have cut into his training, but Gatlin's still looking forward to his first nationals in five years. He's planning to run the 100 and possibly the 200 as well, depending on how his body holds up.

"The last couple of weeks I've been beat up, but now I feel good," Gatlin said in a phone interview after arriving in town for a meet that will decide the team bound for worlds in South Korea later this summer. "I'm ready."

Once one of the fastest men on the planet, Gatlin sat out for four years after testing positive for excessive testosterone in April 2006.

He returned to the sport last summer, but a dark cloud still hovers over him. He's recently been competing in minor meets in Europe, but is still excluded from major European events.

This was a step forward for him: Gatlin was added to the field at the Prefontaine Classic on June 4 when other sprinters dropped out. His time of 9.97 seconds at Pre — on the same track used for nationals — makes him the fourth-fastest American this season.

"Everyone should get a second chance," said Gatlin, who captured gold in the 100 at the 2004 Olympic Games. "I just want to come back to the sport."

Gatlin realizes he can't change the public's perception of him, so he just concentrates on the one thing he can control — running fast.

In his heyday, Gatlin was the best in the game. He tied the then 100-meter world record of 9.77 seconds, a run that came weeks after a positive test and has since been erased.

The 29-year-old is trying to make the world team against a field of Americans that includes Tyson Gay, Walter Dix and a fleet of fast, up-and-coming youngsters.

And before being labeled as the "old man in the blocks," Gatlin points out he's nearly the same age as Gay (29 in August) and Jamaica's Asafa Powell (29 in November).

"I don't think I've lost a beat or a step," Gatlin said. "I'm back where I need to be."

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