Justin Gatlin ruined Usain Bolt’s farewell party when the 35-year-old American won the world 100 metres title on Saturday, beating the Jamaican superstar into third and sparking a chorus of boos from a London crowd unhappy with his doping past.
What was meant to be a glorious celebration of the departure of the sport’s greatest showman turned into a condemnation of its biggest pantomime villain as Gatlin, twice banned for drug offences, rolled back the years to win a second world title 12 years after his first and 13 after claiming Olympic 100m gold.
As so often before Bolt made a terrible start but for once could not make it up as Christian Coleman, the 21-year-old American who beat him in the semi-finals, looked set for victory.
But Gatlin, who stumbled at the death to lose the 2015 world final to Bolt by a hundredth of a second, on this occasion timed his surge and dip to perfection to win in 9.92 seconds.
Coleman, who has run over 40 races this year but turned professional only a few weeks ago, took silver in 9.94.
Bolt, straining every sinew, fought all the way to the line but the pace and grace that took him to his world record of 9.58 eight years ago has withered with age and perennial injury battles and this time he ran out of track.
“It’s just one of those things,” Bolt said. “My start is killing me. Normally, it gets better during the rounds but it didn’t come together.”
When the results flashed up on the giant screen the crowd immediately began repeating the booing with which Gatlin’s name had been greeted since the heats on Friday.