Usain Bolt’s final individual race on the global stage ended in shock and disappointment at the hands of rival Justin Gatlin.
Usain Bolt’s final individual race on the global stage ended in shock and disappointment.
The farewell party for Bolt, and for the multitude of fans at home in Jamaica and around the world, was spoiled by a pair of Americans, one of them among the sport’s most controversial athletes.
In the 100-meter final Saturday, Bolt started slow as usual, was behind at the halfway point, as usual, but for the first time in a championship since 2008 he was unable to overtake the field at the IAAF world track and field championships in London.
The winner was Justin Gatlin, who came on late to prevail in a close finish in 9.92 seconds. Christian Coleman was second in 9.94; Bolt was third in 9.95.
“My start is killing me,” Bolt said. “Normally it gets better during the rounds but it didn’t come together.”
Gatlin knows what Bolt has meant to the sport, graciously bowing in admiration in front of him — even after beating him. The two men, never really friends, warmly embraced and spoke.
“It’s just so surreal right now,” Gatlin said. “Usain has accomplished so much in our sport and inspired others.”
When his victory sank in, Gatlin let out an almighty roar and then put a finger in front of his mouth for silence as the crowd continued to show him disrespect.
It was an amazing turnaround for Gatlin, who was the Olympic champion in 2004 (and world champ in 2005) before Bolt emerged and won an unprecedented three consecutive 100-meter titles at the Olympics. Thirteen years later, Gatlin bounced back to win in the Jamaican’s last individual race.
In between, Gatlin’s career was stopped for doping suspensions. Yet fighting controversy all the way since, he got perhaps his greatest gold at 35.
“It was almost like 2004 all over again,” Gatlin said. “I won by a little margin, and to be able to come across the line is amazing.”
The 60,000-sellout crowd at the Olympic Stadium, ready for a party in a race they were convinced Bolt would win, had to acknowledge a champion they relentlessly booed over the opening two days of the championships.
It turned into awkward scenes with the champion being overlooked for the bronze medalist.
“It’s not about the crowd,” Gatlin said. “I tuned it out through the rounds and stayed the course.”
Bolt didn’t smile any less afterward.
“It is just one of those things,” Bolt said, showing his carefree demeanor even in defeat. “It has been brilliant.”
It was Bolt’s second loss of the day; his 45-race winning streak had ended earlier in the semifinals to Coleman.
“No regrets,” Bolt insisted, long after a result that stunned a pumped-up crowd into near silence. “It was always going to end, no matter what happened — win, lose or draw. It doesn’t change anything in my career.”
It marks the final individual race in the career of the world recordholder and world’s fastest man, though Bolt is expected to close out his international career Saturday in the 4×100 relay.
He was asked if he wished he’d run what is widely considered his best race — the 200, where he also holds the world record.
“It probably would’ve been even worse,” Bolt said. “I’m not in shape to run 200 meters right now.”
Bolt, who turns 31 on Aug. 21, has said repeatedly that this will be his final global championship, and he will try to cap a career that has been unprecedented and unlikely to ever be repeated.
He owns eight Olympic gold medals and 11 world championship golds.
Since 2008, when he set his first world record, he had not lost a championship race, and he has collected 19 gold medals in 22 opportunities at 100, 200 and 4×100. The only times, before Saturday, he did not won gold in that stretch: The 100 at the 2011 worlds, when he was disqualified for a false start; and the 2008 Olympic 4×100, a gold won by Jamaica that was subsequently stripped because a teammate tested positive for banned substances.
For Coleman, 21, the NCAA champ at 100 and 200 in June, it’s a big start on his pro career.
“To beat someone I looked up to when I was growing up. I was just happy to be on the line with him,” he conceded.
►Five more medals were awarded for athletes whose results were upgraded because of past doping offenses.
Kara Goucher of the USA was given a silver medal for her run in the 10,000 meters at the 2007 worlds, while Jo Pavey of Britain was upgraded to bronze in the same race.
Also, Irina Lishchynska of Ukraine was given silver for the 1,500 in 2007, Ineta Radevica was given silver for the long jump from the 2011 worlds and Rutger Smith of the Netherlands was given a bronze for the shot put from 2007.
►Luvo Manyonga of South Africa took gold in the long jump with a leap of 8.48 meters (27 feet, 9 3/4 inches), holding off Jarrion Lawson of the United States by 4 centimeters and going one better than his silver at last year’s Olympics. Ruswahl Samaai, also from South Africa, took bronze.
►After winning the 10,000 at the Rio Olympics with a runaway world record, Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia made sure that her margin was even bigger at the worlds — make that three times as big. Ayana won in 30 minutes, 16.32 seconds, 46.37 seconds ahead of Ethiopian teammate Tirunesh Dibaba. In track terms, that is more than 300 meters in a 10-kilometer race. Agnes Tirop of Kenyua took bronze.
►Andrius Gudzius of Lithuania won his first major discus title, holding off favorite Daniel Stahl of Sweden by 2 centimeters. Gudzius threw 69.21 meters (227 feet) on his second of six attempts, while the Swede finished just short. Mason Finley of the USA took bronze.
Contributing: The Associated Press