Usain Bolt, prevailing in his ‘hardest race’ yet, brings athletics a lift
Usain Bolt rode to the rescue of his beleaguered sport in the toughest race of his career as he dashed Justin Gatlin’s hopes of 100 metres gold at the 2015 Athletics World Championships in Beijing.
The Jamaican lived up to his billing as the saviour of athletics as he held off the challenge of Gatlin, twice failed of a doping test, to win in 9.79 seconds at the Bird’s Nest Stadium.
Gatlin stumbled across the line 0.01sec behind as the crisis-hit sport breathed a sigh of relief.
And there was more positive news for the future of sprinting, with the American’s teammate Trayvon Bromell and Canada’s Andre De Grasse, who are both just 20, sharing bronze in 9.92s.
Gatlin has been cast as the sport’s No 1 villain, especially in the wake of the doping allegations which have engulfed athletics and its governing body the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in recent weeks.
A win for the 33-year-old, especially over six-time Olympic champion Bolt and in the blue-riband event, would have been a hammer blow to an already-damaged reputation.
His return to the top of athletics following a four-year drug ban which expired in 2010 has left many within the sport feeling at best uncomfortable and at worst outraged.
The 2004 Olympic champion came into the championships at the top of the world rankings, having run 9.74.
Bolt, in contrast, still had to answer plenty of questions about his fitness following a pelvic injury earlier in the summer – and they mounted after a muted semi-final performance.
But the sport’s leading man, the self-styled legend, delivered when it mattered most.
Bolt, for whom this was a 10th individual global title, said: “Coming back from injury I’ve had a lot of doubters, it’s been a tough road, so for me to come to the championships and defend my title is a good feeling.
“I definitely think this was my hardest race. I’ve been through a lot this season, it’s been rough.”
The 29-year-old, back at the scene of his first triple Olympic triumph, called his Munich-based doctor, Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt, “a lifesaver”.
He also insisted he did not feel the pressure to win for his sport, only to continue his own global domination.
And that looked on course to end after the semi-finals when Gatlin blasted home in 9.77s, while Bolt almost tripped out of the blocks and had to fight all the way to the line to snatch the win.
“I almost fell,” he said.
“But after the semi-finals my coach (Glen Mills) said, ‘Listen, you are thinking about it too much, there’s too much on your mind, all you have to do is remember that you’ve been in this position way too many times, you’ve done this a million times so just go out there, relax and get it done’. And that’s what I did.”
There was a surreal moment before the final when “the world’s fastest piano player” was brought out to play a tune for 9.58 seconds – Bolt’s world record time.
The Jamaican’s reaction was a shrug of bemusement. And the most relaxed man in sport showed no sign of nerves on the start line.
Instead, Gatlin was the one to crack when the heat was on.
The veteran, who will get another shot when he and Bolt go head to head over 200m, felt he “gave away” victory.
“I stumbled in the last five metres, my arms got a little flaily,” he said.
“You have to come out and run and over the last five metres, it wasn’t my day to do so.
“Anyone who goes to the line to go against Usain has to be ready to go to work. In those five metres I let things get away from me. It cost me the race.
“I leaned a little too far forward, and I got a little off balance.”
Gatlin simply stated “I’m thankful” when asked repeatedly for his thoughts on the sport willing him not to win.
It was a sentiment shared by many.
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Published: August 24, 2015 04:00 AM