Usain Bolt has left the sprint arena for good. Despite his enviable “triple-triple” record, the 11-time world champion lost his last contest to American veteran Justin Gatlin.
The Jamaican tendered an apology for that disgraceful outing which many fans of the sport see as good prospects.
Gatlin is the next big deal notwithstanding the boos he got from stunned spectators after winning the 100m world title in London last Saturday.
Critics of the sport claim Usain’s loss was staged to promote Gatlin, who was twice banned for substance use.
“The first thing he did was congratulate me and say that I didn’t deserve the boos. He is an inspiration,” Gatlin said of Usain’s sportsmanship and humility.
To clinch the title, Gatlin completed his race at 9.92 seconds while another American, Christian Coleman clocked 9.94 seconds. Usain got bronze at 9.95 seconds after a very awful start.
Gatlin previously won two silver medals behind the world’s fastest runner at their last two world championships.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t end it on a winning note, but I want to thank you for your support,” said the the lanky 6ft 5in Jamaican giant in a post-match interview.
“It’s been a wonderful experience as always.”
During Saturday’s event, Usain, Gatlin and Christian all seem to have crossed the finished line with no clear winner, but technology sorted our doubts.
Gatlin knelt to show his Jamaican buddy some respect, and the atmosphere was a friendly one.
The world has always seen both runners as aliens from different planets — Gatlin, the bad due to his drug-tainted past, and beloved Usain, the good for his drug-free wins.
Speaking to reporters at the event, Gatlin said he was focused on winning rather than worrying about the hate from spectators.
“I ignored the boos through the rounds and stayed the course,” the American said.
“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.”
After the victory, Gatlin placed a finger across his gummed lips as if hushing the crowd before going on his knees for the Jamaican legend.
Despite the echoing boos from haters after the track and field event, Gatlin reportedly gatecrashed Usain’s farewell party.
”I have nothing but respect for him,” Gatlin, 35, said of Usain, who’s five years younger.
”Even with me being older than him, he’s such an inspiration for me.”
Talking about 3ple-3ple’s legacy in the sport, Ato Boldon, a 4-time Olympic medalist who currently works as a reporter with NBC said prior to the London match, “If he [Usain] doesn’t have a good race here, people will say well that’s too bad he couldn’t go out on top, but he does have eight Olympic gold medals, and I think most real track and field fans will remember the joy they felt watching him perform over the last nine seasons.”