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.