Gatlin gate­crashes Bolt’s 100 me­tre farewell party

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Amer­i­can veteran Justin Gatlin was booed after he stunned Usain Bolt to win the 100m world ti­tle in Lon­don on Satur­day and rain on the Ja­maican’s farewell race in the blue riband event. Gatlin, who has served two dop­ing bans and won sil­vers be­hind Bolt at the last two world cham­pi­onships, clocked 9.92 sec­onds, with team­mate Chris­tian Coleman win­ning sil­ver in 9.94sec.

Bolt suf­fered a dread­ful start and could only claim bronze in 9.95sec. “I’m sorry I couldn’t end it on a win­ning note, but I want to thank you for your sup­port,” said Bolt, who em­braced Gatlin after they streaked through the line with no clear vic­tor im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent.

“It’s been a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence as al­ways.” Gatlin was af­forded the same rough re­cep­tion as he had in the heats and semi-fi­nals, loud boos and jeer­ing ring­ing around the same sta­dium where in 2012 his ri­valry with Bolt was pre­sented as ‘good against evil’, given the Amer­i­can’s dop­ing-tainted past.

“I tuned it out (the boos) through the rounds and stayed the course,” said Gatlin. “I did what I had to do. The peo­ple who love me are here cheer­ing for me and cheer­ing at home. “It is Bolt’s last race. I have had many vic­to­ries and many de­feats down the years. It is an amaz­ing oc­ca­sion. We are ri­vals on the track but in the warm-down area we joke and have a good time.” The jeer­ing did in­deed con­tinue un­abated after it be­came clear Gatlin, a sprinter whose past di­vides track and field, had gate­crashed Bolt’s party.

Gatlin ini­tially put his fin­ger to his pursed lips as if to hush the crowd, be­fore drop­ping to his knees to bow down to Bolt. “The first thing he did was con­grat­u­late me and say that I didn’t de­serve the boos. He is an in­spi­ra­tion,” Gatlin said of Bolt. Coleman added: “It was an his­toric mo­ment for me to beat Bolt who has taken this sport to an­other level and who I watched as I grew up. A hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I’m de­lighted for Justin as we have bonded and be­come close. I was im­pressed by the way he han­dled the pres­sure and the crowd.” Gatlin has form as the last man to beat Bolt over 100m-by a hun­dredth of a sec­ond in Rome in 2013 — and at the age of 35, can still pro­duce the goods, some­thing he has in the past iron­i­cally cred­ited with his four years of forced ex­ile from the track.

The evening was all sup­posed to be about the 30year-old Bolt claim­ing a re­mark­able 12th world gold to add to his eight Olympic golds in what has been a glit­ter­ing ca­reer. And what a gap­ing hole his ab­sence will leave, no mat­ter how brave a face track and field’s gov­ern­ing body the IAAF try to put on it. Of his 19 global golds, 13 have come in in­di­vid­ual events and al­lied with a charis­matic per­son­al­ity, it has guar­an­teed Bolt recog­ni­tion as one of the world’s most suc­cess­ful sports­men



“It feels like most of Kingston is in Strat­ford tonight,” the sta­dium an­nouncer said of the wel­come af­forded Bolt in the eastern Lon­don sta­dium now home to West Ham United in the English Premier League. In tem­per­a­tures of 19 de­grees Cel­sius (68F), Bolt the show­man demon­strated ex­actly what athletics will miss when he bows out. The sell-out 60,000 crowd roared as he en­tered the sta­dium to do his fi­nal warm-up on the track.

Stripped to a vest and tight shorts in the black, green and yel­low of Ja­maica, chants of “Usain Bolt” rang around in a sur­pris­ingly tense at­mos­phere. Gatlin, on the other hand, was emo­tion­less as loud jeers wel­comed him. Start­ing in lane four, Bolt was in­cred­i­bly slow to re­act out of the blocks, the 100 and 200m world record holder be­hind Coleman in the lane out­side from the off.

The crowd, on their feet, roared, and so Bolt re­sponded as he has so many times be­fore. After 50 me­tres, he moved into his famed “drive phase”, head com­ing slowly up as part of the process that un­leashes the full power from his long legs. But it was not quite enough.

Teeth grit­ted and eyes glued on the big screen of the Trevor Brook­ing Stand, Bolt streaked through the fin­ish line but any fairy­tale in­di­vid­ual fin­ish to a star­tling ca­reer was dashed by Gatlin and young pretender Coleman. For the IAAF, could there have been a worse out­come?

Rus­sia re­mains banned from in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion over dop­ing and now their prized ath­lete, des­tined for some kind of fu­ture am­bas­sado­rial role within the body, bows out beaten by a two-time, largely un­re­pen­tant drugs cheat.


LON­DON: (L-R) Win­ner US ath­lete Justin Gatlin, Ja­maica’s Yo­han Blake, South Africa’s Akani Sim­bine, US ath­lete Chris­tian Coleman, Ja­maica’s Usain Bolt com­pete in the fi­nal of the men’s 100m athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Cham­pi­onships at the Lon­don Sta­dium in Lon­don on Satur­day.

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