Bolt steals the show one last time, with­out fin­ish­ing the race

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

IF ONLY he had called it a day in Rio. If only the tim­ing of a cramp wasn’t so in­op­por­tune. If only he was granted just one more mo­ment, for all our self­ish sakes.

Usain Bolt was ramp­ing into warp speed when sud­denly, stun­ningly, the sprint turned into a som­er­sault.

Fif­teen steps into the fi­nal home­stretch of his fi­nal race, some­thing gave in his left ham­string. The World’s Fastest Man skit­tered to a stop — hop­ping, skip­ping, jump­ing, then fi­nally drop­ping to the ground and tum­bling for­ward be­fore com­ing to a rest.

While the win­ning team from Bri­tain crossed the fin­ish line, Bolt was writhing on the track, where he even­tu­ally wound up chest down with his face pressed into Lane 5. He was cer­tainly ev­ery bit as stunned as any of the 60 000plus who packed the sta­dium on Sat­ur­day, or the mil­lions watch­ing one of the world’s most en­ter­tain­ing show­men make his fi­nal cur­tain call in the 4x100-me­tre re­lay at the World Cham­pi­onships.

There was no cel­e­bra­tion. No gold, no sil­ver, not even a con­so­la­tion bronze, the likes of which Bolt re­ceived a week ear­lier in his fi­nal 100-me­ter race.

Jamaica closed the night with “DNF” by its name: Did Not Fin­ish. Dead last. Bolt was helped into a wheelchair, but even­tu­ally got to his feet and, as­sisted by his team­mates, limped gin­gerly across the fin­ish line. He gave a few waves to the crowd, then left for the trainer’s room, and with that, pre­sum­ably left track and field for­ever.

“In­juries are part of our sport and, al­ways, of course, it’s sad to see,” said Wal­lace Spear­mon, the Amer­i­can sprinter who has been close with Bolt for years and was on hand help­ing the US team. “So, yeah, it’s tragic.”

The Ja­maican team doc­tor, Kevin Jones, di­ag­nosed the in­jury that brought a strange end to Bolt’s ca­reer as, sim­ply, a cramp in the cham­pion’s left ham­string.

“But a lot of pain is from dis­ap­point­ment from los­ing the race,” Jones said. “The last three weeks have been hard for him, you know. We hope for the best for him.”

Watch­ing track’s No 1 sprinter and celebrity drop­ping to the ground was noth­ing short of jaw­drop­ping — so much so that the fact that Bri­tain won the race, out­run­ning a United States team that, some­what amaz­ingly, didn’t drop the ba­ton, al­most seemed like an af­ter­thought.

Netha­neel Mitchell-Blake held off US an­chor­man Chris­tian Cole­man down the stretch and the Brits won their first-ever world ti­tle in the 4x100 in 37.47 sec­onds.

When Bolt took the ba­ton from Yo­han Blake for his fi­nal home­stretch, he was in third place, but that was no cause for con­cern. In vir­tu­ally each of the seven re­lay golds he’s won at the Olympics and World Cham­pi­onships, Bolt has reeled in the com­pe­ti­tion down the stretch and won go­ing away.

Five years and one day ear­lier, on the very same track, Bolt helped Jamaica set the world record. That run of 36.84 sec­onds earned Bolt the sixth of nine Olympic vic­to­ries.

But last week in the 100, Bolt’s ex­tra gear was not enough ei­ther to catch Cole­man, who fin­ished sec­ond, or to hold off Justin Gatlin, who came from be­hind to fin­ish first.

Could he have caught his re­lay com­pe­ti­tion in this one? No­body will ever know. Bolt was gain­ing no ground at the 30-me­ter mark, which is when he felt the pain in his leg and went tum­bling.

Af­ter­ward, there was plenty of sec­ond-guess­ing to be done. Most of it came at the ex­pense of the IAAF, which made the sprint­ers wait about 40 min­utes from the time they were sum­moned from the warm-up room to the time the start­ing gun went off.

“I think this is crazy,” Blake said.

“Forty min­utes. Wait­ing. Warm­ing up. Wait­ing. Warm­ing up. It just should not hap­pen. To have your cham­pion go out like that. It’s crazy.”

Said Gatlin: “We lost all of our heat, all of our sweat, and we went out there cold.”

Part of the wait was for the US women’s re­lay team to fin­ish its vic­tory cel­e­bra­tion. Tori Bowie an­chored the win and is the only ath­lete to win two gold medals in Lon­don. Also, a medal cer­e­mony was held for Rus­sian high jump cham­pion Mariya La­sitskene, who is com­pet­ing as a neu­tral ath­lete and got to lis­ten not to her own an­them, but to the IAAF’s theme song, as she stood on the podium.

Other win­ners in­cluded Kevin Mayer of France in the de­cathlon and Jo­hannes Vet­ter, whose vic­tory in the javelin throw gave Ger­many its first gold of the cham­pi­onships.

In the un­der­card to the re­lays, Muk­tar Edris held off Mo Farah of Bri­tain in the 5 000. With help of his Ethiopian team­mates, Edris won a tac­ti­cal cat-and-mouse race. It was a fun race to watch.

But no­body steals the show the way Bolt does.

As if to prove that point one last time, he did it again — with­out even fin­ish­ing the race.

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