BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - Usain Bolt could be tempted to reverse his decision to retire from athletics after next month's world championships, his American sprint rival Justin Gatlin said on Friday.
The great Jamaican, who has won eight Olympic and 11 world championship gold medals, is planning to quit the track after competing in the 100m and 4x100m relay in the global event in London.
However, Gatlin, who was beaten by Bolt in the last two world championship 100m and 200m finals and at last year's Olympics in Rio, believes the 30-year-old could one day find a return impossible to resist.
"Why not? He has that rock star mentality where he can travel the world, have fun, party in different places and then say: 'I want to take this seriously one more time'," Gatlin told reporters at the U.S. team's training camp in Birmingham.
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"He has the opportunity to come back, once he leaves he can have a year of rest and say: 'I love track so much I can't leave it too soon'."
The 35-year-old Gatlin, twice banned for doping violations, has only beaten Bolt once in a world championship final, in 2005 in Helsinki when the Jamaican was still a teenager.
But with the main man of athletics due to depart the sprint scene, Gatlin predicted an exciting new era.
"It makes you a little more jittery. Who's going to step up to fill that void, who's going to rise to the occasion and want to be the next superstar?" he said.
"Now you're not worried about the Usain Bolt Show. Now you're more concerned about the head-on competition, people rising to the occasion and saying: 'I will do it for me and my family now I have the opportunity to run from the front'."
(Reporting by Christian Radnedge, editing by Ed Osmond)