Four years on, it is the 5ft 9in Trinidadian who is walking tall after a race in which he came of age as a 100m championship competitor. This was the first significant victory in the short sprint for a 24-year-old whose 100m career until this point has been a matter of outstanding times at all the wrong times.
Yesterday Boldon found the right time for everything, defeating a field which included Namibia's quadruple Olympic silver medallist, Frankie Fredericks, and the newly established World Cup champion from Barbados, Obadeleh Thompson.
Boldon's time was 9.88sec, just 0.04sec off the world record. Fredericks was second in 9.96 and Thompson beat the newly emerging Australian talent, Matthew Shirvington, to the bronze with a time of 10.00sec amid a tumult of noise from a crowd of close to 50,000.
It was company which proved too much for England's champion, Darren Campbell, who finished fifth in 10.08sec with Marlon Devonish three places behind in 10.22.
Boldon was patently delighted with an event which had gained huge credence from the late decision of both Fredericks and himself to contest it. He had entered the race saying that it gave the Commonwealth Games legitimacy. He emerged from it having legitimised his own claim to being an outstanding 100m runner, even if he had not achieved his ambition of breaking the world record.
"The track didn't give me back as much as I had expected," he said. "But I'm happy with a win in 9.88. And more importantly, so is my coach, John Smith."
With the world record holder and Olympic champion, Donovan Bailey, out of action with a ruptured Achilles tendon that has put his career in jeopardy, the only serious challenger remaining for Boldon is his American training partner Maurice Greene, the world champion, whom he hopes to beat in Tokyo on Saturday.
He would not be drawn on the subject of the 2000 Olympics, but he was happy to dwell on a performance that lit him up like a bulb. "I am a track fan first," he said. "I knew that people were worried about the 100m here at one time. But those kids and adults who have paid to come and watch this event can go home now and say, "I have seen a good race."
The credibility of the women's 5,000m was diminished by the withdrawal through injury of England's Paula Radcliffe and then Kenya's Sally Barsosio. In their absence, the title went to Kate Anderson of Australia, who won in 15min 52.74sec, with Andrea Whitcombe claiming England's second silver medal in the athletics programme with a final lap surge, which bought her home in 15:56.85.
Du'Aine Ladejo making his major championship debut at the decathlon after switching from the 400m, ended the first day in third place after jumping up the rankings with a time of 46.12sec in his former specialist event.
In the main men's 400m, Mark Richardson qualified competently for today's final but can hardly have been reassured by the astonishing performance of his two Welsh rivals, Iwan Thomas and Jamie Baulch, who recorded 44.61sec and 44.83sec, respectively, despite chatting and larking their way through the final 20 metres of their semi-final. Thomas's British record of 44.36sec is surely under imminent threat.
FASTEST 100M IN HISTORY
9.84sec - 1996 Donovan Bailey (Can) at Atlanta Olympic Games
9.85 - 1994 Leroy Burrell (US) at Lausanne
9.86 - 1991 Carl Lewis (US) at Tokyo.
9.88 - 1998 Ato Boldon (Trin) at Kuala Lumpur
9.90 - 1991 Leroy Burrell (US) at New York
9.92 - 1988 Carl Lewis (US) at Seoul Olympics
9.93 - 1983 Calvin Smith (US) at USAF Academy
9.95 - 1968 Jim Hines (US) at Mexico OlympicsReuse content