*Christian Coleman takes silver and Bolt has to settle for bronze
By Olajide Fashikun
As the sun sets on a glorious career, the world was shocked by a vigilante, Justin Gatlin, who defeated the sport’s poster boy, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt in his final 100m race in London.
Gatlin, the vigilante, a controversial American, who turned 35 in February, by ranking and rating was supposed to be too old and too slow for the short sprint. He ‘arrested’ the best sprinter in the world at the exit gate.
Watching on television monitored from Abuja, when it was confirmed that Gatlin had won gold in 9.92sec – 0.02 clear of his fellow American Christian Coleman, who took silver, and Bolt who claimed bronze a further 0.01sec back, almost all of the 56,000 people in the stadium booed in disgust.
Gatlin who had described himself as “the Batman of the track – a vigilante. You may not like me, but I’m needed.” Given his previous doping bans few in the London Stadium were celebrating the rising again of this self-styled Dark Knight who killed the King at twilight.
Sportsman Bolt: Bolt’s first and instant reaction was of a great sportsman. The first thing he did was hug Gatlin. Then he told the crowd: “It is one of those things.”
“I never expected this, as always,” he told the crowd. “London, I really appreciate the support you gave me.” Despite the defeat he also did his traditional lap of honour, posing for selfies as if he had just claimed his 12th world title and not suffered one of the most painful defeats of his career.
Fast track Beijing World championships: Two years ago, at the world championships in Beijing, Bolt and Gatlin had gone head to head in an epic showdown. With 20metres to go the two men were locked together in a desperate tango, stretching and straining for the line. But then Gatlin over-reached, stumbled and, in a flash of 50,000 camera-phones and a whoosh of cheers, Bolt had the race.
This time around. Dateline London. Gatlin kept his composure. Coleman made a superb start and was leading after 70 metres. But feeling the heat of Bolt closing in on him, he started to tie up. That gave Gatlin his chance – and in the very last strides he came through to take the prized gold medal. The dozenth medal Usain would have wished he took to crown his drugless career.
Gatlin booed before the race: As each of the eight finalists were introduced to the sound of a thumping heartbeat, Bolt smiled and put his fingers to his lips. Coleman puffed out his cheeks, trying to blow out the tension. Gatlin, meanwhile was stoic and focused in the face of yet more booing. He turned the negative aura to energy.
For the crowd, Bolt it is: As the sprinters set into their blocks with the starters set to do their bits, the chants grew fatter and louder: “Usain Bolt! Usain Bolt!” Looking back, Gatlin gave the crowd the vinegar to swallow.
The crowd were stunned. After all, Bolt’s record since he blitzed and charmed his way into the public’s consciousness at the Beijing Olympics, when he obliterated the 100m and 200m world records, has been staggering.
Bolt records standing tall: Before Saturday’s semi-finals and finals he had ran 142 races since the start of 2008 – and won all but seven of them. Throughout this season there had been that stupid but nagging feeling that he was vulnerable. He had missed three weeks of the season after his close friend Germaine Mason was killed in a road accident. His back troubled him. His 100metres times were no longer immortal. The door was open for assailants to take him to the dry cleaner. Gatlin did in London.
Omen were getting clearer: In the semi-finals as Coleman surged out of his blocks and held his form and his nerve to win in 9.97 seconds, I sought out the statistics of Bolt. He made a wretched start. No doubt. It was Bolt’s first defeat for over four years since losing to Gatlin in Rome in June 2013. And with no other athlete
breaking 10 seconds, the final looked set to be an immediate rematch between the pair.
Unknown Calculus: Coleman having run 9.82sec in Eugene in June was my silent headache. He had also just become only the second person in history to complete the double-double of NCAA titles – 60m and 200m indoor and 100m and 200m outdoors. The first man to do it, however – Gatlin himself – had other ideas.
Good night Usain. Gatlin, the vigilante goes home with the 12th gold of Usain. At the ceremony, Gatlin was in the centre where I thought Usain was going to be to bid the world a final goodbye and a Kinstonian rocket pose. All dreams sleep and eyes open to a new world champion with booes and banters of a once drug past.