ROME - The way Justin Gatlin sees it, trash talking is the lifeblood of the most glamorous race on the track. And if that doesn't go down well with world record-holder Usain Bolt, well so be it.
The American sprinter, who will face Bolt in the 100 meters at the Golden Gala on Thursday, has been boasting after impressive wins in two of the opening Diamond League meets this year.
Gatlin ran 9.97 seconds in Doha, Qatar, and 9.88 in Eugene, Ore.
Bolt, who has dominated sprinting for the last five years, narrowly won his only 100 this season in a relatively slow 10.09 last month in the Cayman Islands.
Bolt acknowledged on Tuesday that Gatlin "has done a lot this season already," but noted that he saves his biggest talking for the biggest events.
This year's highlight will be the world championships in Moscow in August.
"You have to get the crowd excited to come see us," Gatlin said Wednesday. "You see us for nine seconds and then we're off the track and then we're gone to the next meet, then you see us for another nine seconds and then we're gone.
"So this is the only way you're going to hear what we say, if you read about it. I like talking about it. I like getting into it. I'm sorry. Sorry, Usain."
Gatlin will race Bolt for the first time since the London Olympics final, which was the fastest final in athletics history. Bolt won in 9.63 -- 0.05 off his world record from 2009, Yohan Blake took silver in 9.75 and Gatlin earned bonze in 9.79. Tyson Gay was fourth in 9.80.
Gatlin won his first major medal since his career was derailed in 2006 by a positive drug test that led to a four-year ban. Gatlin was the reigning Olympic champion when he tested positive, having won the 100 at the 2004 Athens Games.
Gatlin has been reviewing video footage of the London Olympic final and has pinpointed the last 20 meters as the area where he needs to improve.
"I'm working on the finish of my race," he said. "(Bolt and Blake) had extraordinary last 20 meters. So I've been working on that."
Bolt leads 3-0 in head-to-head races with Gatlin. The American had two flights canceled before he arrived in Rome. Still, Gatlin believes he can win.
"If I didn't think so, I would have definitely gone home after the first canceled flight," Gatlin said. "My season has been going really good, from Beijing to Shanghai to Doha and hopefully I can keep that streak going."
But Bolt is feeling better after being slowed by a hamstring injury
"You never know what to expect from a guy with the caliber of Usain Bolt," Gatlin said. "He can run a 10.0 two weeks before then come out running a 9.7. So you just have to prepare for that 9.5 anytime you run against him."
No matter the result, Gatlin will take something away from this race.
"I like racing the top guys. You get a feel, you get a sense of your opponents' race strategy, how they prepare for races," he said. "I would love to race Yohan and Tyson more often, as well as Bolt."