Bolt de­feated

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - AP/MATT DURHAM

Amer­i­can Justin Gatlin, (above, right) em­braces Ja­maica’s Usain Bolt af­ter Gatlin won the men’s fi­nal in the 100 me­ters at the track and field world cham­pi­onships in Lon­don on Sat­ur­day. Bolt, the world-record holder and three-time Olympic gold medal win­ner in the event, was de­feated in the 100 at a ma­jor cham­pi­onship for the first time in his ca­reer. He has said he is re­tir­ing af­ter the world cham­pi­onships.

LON­DON — One fi­nal time, Usain Bolt peered down the last 50 me­ters of his lane and saw sprinter upon sprinter run­ning foot­steps ahead of him.

One fi­nal time, the world-record holder fu­ri­ously pumped the arms and legs on his rangy 6-5 frame, des­per­ately try­ing to reel in all those would-be win­ners as the fin­ish line fast ap­proached.

This time, the af­ter­burn­ers did not kick in hard enough. Not one, but two over­looked Amer­i­cans — Justin Gatlin and Chris­tian Cole­man — held off what was once Bolt’s un­de­ni­able late charge.

This time, Bolt fin­ished third in the 100-me­ter dash at the world cham­pi­onships, a bronze medal fin­ish Sat­ur­day night in the go­ing-away party for a track and field icon.

“No re­grets,” Bolt said, long af­ter a re­sult that stunned a bois­ter­ous 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.”

Gatlin, who ac­tu­ally trailed Bolt at the half­way point, heard boos cas­cade loudly across the sta­dium when his win­ning time, 9.92 sec­onds, popped up on the score­board. The 35-year-old, who has served two dop­ing bans and been widely cast as a vil­lain to Bolt’s hero, went sprawl­ing to the ground with a huge smile. Later, he bowed down to the man he fi­nally de­feated.

“I wanted to pay homage to him,” Gatlin said. “This night is still a mag­i­cal night for track and field and Usain Bolt. I’m just happy to be one of his big­gest com­peti­tors.”

Cole­man, a 21-year-old in the first ma­jor race of his life, was in shock, too: “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.

Bolt, who fin­ished third in a time of 9.95, ac­cepted with class both the re­sult and the fact that, at 30, he prob­a­bly is pick­ing the per­fect time to re­tire.

“I did it for the fans,” he said af­ter col­lect­ing a bronze to go with his three world golds at 100 me­ters. “They wanted me to go for one more sea­son. I came out and did the best I could.”

In the past, the scene af­ter a Bolt race was re­ally just an af­ter-party mas­querad­ing as cer­e­mony, filled with Bob Mar­ley tunes, Ja­maican flags and danc­ing. On Sat­ur­day, it felt sur­real to any­one who’s been to a Bolt vic­tory be­fore.

With house mu­sic play­ing softly through­out the sta­dium where Bolt won the mid­dle three of his nine Olympic fi­nals, Gatlin and Cole­man passed through the exit tun­nel while the former cham­pion took a 10-minute trip around the track, then de­toured into the stands for self­ies with the Ja­maican fans who came across the ocean to see him one last time.

A few min­utes af­ter that, he stepped onto the track, kneeled down and kissed the fin­ish line that he crossed in Lane 4.

Then, he gave the fans what they ex­pect: The fa­mous “To The World” pose, which used to be the cherry on top of a rau­cous, fun-filled night. But where in the past the sta­dium would have still been brim­ming, this time, it was about one-eighth full and emp­ty­ing quickly.

Bolt still has the 400 re­lay next week­end. He was asked whether 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 raced lightly this year, and his best time com­ing into the meet was the same 9.95 sec­onds he ran in his fi­nale.

His first heat Fri­day night was ugly. Though he won, he lum­bered out of the start and com­plained about the feel of the start­ing blocks.

In the semi­fi­nals, he ac­tu­ally lost by .01 to Cole­man — a rare de­feat in any sort of race, but one that could still be chalked up to it be­ing a tuneup, with the real race more than two hours away.

But in the back of his mind, re­al­ity was set­ting in: “Af­ter the semi­fi­nal, I knew if I didn’t get my start, I was go­ing to be in trou­ble,” he said. “I knew it. And when I left the blocks, I was like ‘Aaaah.’ ”

He was the sec­ond-slow­est starter in the eight-man field. Noth­ing new there, though his abil­ity to over­come it and the fit­ness of the guys he was reel­ing in turned the usual come­back into some­thing no­body’s seen be­fore on this big of a stage.

AP/MATT DUN­HAM

Amer­i­can Justin Gatlin (far left) de­feats Ja­maica’s Usain Bolt (far right) in the 100-me­ter fi­nal, then bows down to the eight-time Olympic gold medal­ist Sat­ur­day at the Track and Field World Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don. The 100-me­ter race was the fi­nal for Bolt who is re­tir­ing af­ter the cham­pi­onships.

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