Saturday, August 05, 2017

Bolt defeated in farewell race

LONDON (AP) -- 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 gangly 6-foot-5 frame, desperately trying to reel in all those would-be winners as the finish line fast approached.

This time, the afterburners kicked in but not hard enough. Not one, but two overlooked and underappreciated 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 world championships. That's right: A bronze-medal finish Saturday night in the going-away party for one of the planet's most entertaining icons and track and field's lone shining star.

"No regrets," Bolt insisted, long after a result that stunned a pumped-up 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."

*** [8/12/17]

LONDON -- 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 Bolt's left hamstring. The World's Fastest Man skittered to a stop, hopping, skipping, jumping and 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 wound up chest down with his face pressed into Lane 5. He was certainly every bit as stunned as any of the 60,000-plus who packed the stadium Saturday or the millions watching one of the world's most entertaining showmen make his final curtain call in the 4x100-meter relay at world championships.

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

Jamaica closed the night with "DNF" by its name: Did Not Finish. 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.

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