Usain Bolt was no longer stunning. He was just stunned.
At the end of a career in which he has dominated his sport for a decade, Bolt was beaten in his final 100-meter race by an American almost five years his senior: Justin Gatlin.
In the run of his long and controversial career, Gatlin, who has twice been banned for doping and won silvers behind Bolt at the last two world championships, clocked 9.92 seconds, with teammate Christian Coleman winning silver in 9.94sec.
“My start is killing me,” Bolt said. “Normally it gets better during the rounds, but it didn’t come together.”
Gatlin knows what Bolt has meant to the sport, and he graciously bowed in admiration in front of him — even after beating him. The two men, never really friends, warmly embraced and spoke.
“It’s just so surreal right now,” Gatlin said. “Usain has accomplished so much in our sport and inspired others.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t end it on a winning note, but I want to thank you for your support,” said Bolt, who embraced Gatlin after they streaked through the line with no clear victor immediately apparent.
“It’s been a wonderful experience as always.”
Gatlin was afforded the same rough reception as he had in the heats and semifinals, loud boos and jeering ringing that serve as a reminder of his doping-tainted past, but he claims he never lost focus.
“I tuned it out (the boos) through the rounds and stayed the course,” said Gatlin.
“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.”
When it became clear Gatlin had gatecrashed Bolt’s party, he initially put his finger to his pursed lips as if to hush the crowd, before dropping to his knees to bow down to Bolt.
“The first thing he did was congratulate me and say that I didn’t deserve the boos. He is an inspiration,” 35-year-old Gatlin said of Bolt.