BEIJING — Turns out, Justin Gatlin's mother didn't need his help putting a heckler in his place.
She did just fine on her own.
On Monday, the camera caught the American sprinter standing on the podium after receiving his 100-meter silver medal at the world championships and gesturing toward someone in the crowd who was bothering his mother.
Later that night when Gatlin talked to his family, he found out his mother actually had the situation under control — that she even made the heckler think twice about the hostility toward her son.
"She explained everything to him, that you can't read what the headlines say, that you've got to know exactly what (the story) is," Gatlin recounted Tuesday after his qualifying race in the 200 metres. "She made him second-guess what he was talking about."
Gatlin has become a polarizing figure in the sport since his return from a four-year doping ban in 2010. But usually, the venom — from the media and a few fans — is aimed at him.
That his mother got dragged into it really got to him. Gatlin was upset at what he was seeing in the crowd that night: A person confronting his mother who wasn't exactly being warm and friendly. Gatlin glared at the person and then pointed with his right finger. He said he shouted at the person to "chill out" and "be a gentleman."
It's all in the past now.
"She's fine. She feels good," he said. "She said just worry about the 200. That's all you have to worry about."
Gatlin was all business in the 200 as he easily won his heat. It was his first race since his stumble in the 100 cost him a chance to beat Usain Bolt, who went by Gatlin near the finish to capture the gold medal.
Bolt breezed in his heat of the 200 as well. The semifinals are Wednesday and the final set for Thursday.
"If you want to be an elite athlete, you want to be a champion, a top dog, you have to tune everything out on and off the track," Gatlin said. "Perform like you need to."
Pat Graham, The Associated Press