By Gene Cherry
(Reuters) - World champions Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman have formed their own relay team and will learn on Saturday how fast they can run.
The idea originated with Gatlin and one of his sponsors.
"They wanted to see some fast guys work together," the 100 meters world champion told Reuters in a telephone interview.
So Gatlin talked to Coleman, the world indoor 60 meters record holder and champion, and they recruited indoor world bronze medalist Baker and longtime sprinter Rodgers.
The result: The top four ranked U.S. 100 meters runners for 2017 will be trying to beat the clock in a 4x100 meters relay at the Tennessee Relays at Knoxville where Gatlin and Coleman were collegiate champions.
The team has no name nor coach, and in a break with tradition, the four men, rather than a coach, will determine the order in which they run.
"Athletes, we know what we are good at," said Gatlin.
And in another move that is out of the norm for early season relays, there is a nice pay check, thanks to the sponsor, Pro Form Sports.
"The guys are getting paid more than they would get paid for a relay," Renaldo Nehemiah, Gatlin's agent, told Reuters.
Tennessee organizers are billing the race as an attempt at the American record of 37.38 seconds, but Gatlin, who ran on the two U.S. teams that share the record (with Rodgers on one of them), would settle for at least the fastest time of the year.
England currently holds that honor, running 38.31 last month in Brisbane.
The world record is 36.84 seconds by Usain Bolt and his Jamaican team mates at the 2012 Olympics.
"If it is fairly successful, we may do it one or two more times on an annual basis," Nehemiah said.
Coleman's agent, Emanuel Hudson, was even thinking the four could challenge national teams preparing for the European Championships.
He also would like to see top U.S. relay hopefuls - such as the four - work together more often.
"Look at the Japanese men's 4x100 relay team," Hudson said. "They over-perform.
"None of those guys ever make it to the 100 meters individual final, but they are always in the final in the 4x1.
"Why is it? Because those guys work together. Everybody knows what they are going to do months in advance and they work together."
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, editing by Pritha Sarkar)