Johannesburg - American sprinter Justin Gatlin says he has nothing but respect for Mzansi athlete Anaso Jobodwana.
Jobodwana celebrated the birth of his son Xolani Parker Dwayne by getting the better of the fastest man in the world.
Gatlin said he had no preconceived notion of what the country was like when he was invited to the Telecom Athletix Grand Prix Series at Tuks Stadium on Thursday night.
The American athlete had no idea he would be beaten by Jobodwana in front of the packed stadium in Pretoria.
Jobodwana clocked 15.08 seconds, while the famous American athlete’s 15.23-second sprint earned him fourth place.
The reigning 100m world champion, who lost to Jobodwana in the men’s 150m main event, said the local athlete was likely to win the biggest sprinting honours at next year’s world championship in Doha, Qatar.
Gatlin said competing in South Africa before the beginning of the American sprinting season, which kicks off next month, was a smart move.
He admitted that he didn’t think he would compete against sprinters of Jobodwana’s calibre.
However, Jobodwana’s performance convinced him South Africa was close to winning a major world sprinting title.
Gatlin tipped Jobodwana to shine at next month’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
The athlete said: “Jobodwana is getting ready for the Commonwealth Games. If I was asked which South African athlete would win big at the event, I would put my money on him.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Jobodwana won a world championships gold medal.”
Gatlin – who has three IAAF men’s 100m world titles, two world indoor titles and one Olympic gold medal – said he would return to South Africa for a holiday with his family or to compete in another high-profile competition.
“I had no idea what South Africa was like, but I was still excited to come here.
“A lot of American athletes and celebrities love to visit South Africa,” he said.
“I was nervous when I got here, but I hope to come back and stay a bit longer next time.”
On the other hand, Jobodwana can’t afford to rest on his laurels.
The local sprinter has his sights set on the SA Senior Track and Field Championships, which are scheduled to take place on Friday and Saturday at Pilditch Stadium in Pretoria.
Jobodwana will compete against fellow South African champion Akani Simbine in the men’s 100m sprint.
Jobodwana said: “A year ago, I wanted to retire but I was encouraged to keep going. My recent victory [against Gatlin] was the highlight of my career.”