The aftermath of Usain Bolt’s 200 metres world title win was as chaotic as the build-up.
After the race withdrawals, pelvic problems and barely a glimpse of the speed he is capable of beforehand, the epitaph to his previous greatness was already being penned by his critics.
And, after a second world title in Beijing and his 10th in all, he was knocked over by a cameraman on a Segway and a volunteer tasked with holding his spikes tried to sprint off with them, only to be restrained by his colleagues.
Amid all the drama yesterday, the status quo was unchanged, once more leaving Justin Gatlin in his wake. Seemingly an accident or a lack of shoes is the only way Gatlin can gain the upper hand, a fact Bolt alluded to light-heartedly after winning in 19.55 seconds, his fastest time since London 2012.
“I feel like Justin Gatlin had something to do with it,” Bolt joked of the cameraman collision. “He tried to kill me! It was like, ‘You are winning too much, take him out!’”
There was little damage done – just a few cuts – and Bolt promised he would be fully fit to have a stab at completing the treble in the 4x100m relay tomorrow.
He now has four consecutive world titles over 200m, having run the 10th-quickest time in history – he boasts half of that top 10 – but he nonchalantly suggested 19.3sec would have been a possibility if he had pushed himself.
From the moment he made the quicker start of the pair, the result was never in doubt, even though Gatlin was on his shoulder in the home straight. Come the 150m mark, Bolt said, he knew Gatlin was tiring and the race was run.
As he approached the line, he beat his chest in animated celebration – a footnote to his sprint rival, he said. “Justin Gatlin said earlier in the week that he was going to bring out something special for the 200m,” Bolt said. “I was like, ‘Yo, you don’t talk about my 200m like that’, so I had to prove to him that I am No 1.”
One could almost have suggested the race was mentally already won, Gatlin undone in his mind by having lost the 100m, an event in which he thought he had the upper hand. The different mindsets showed at the start, Bolt far more relaxed than for the 100m final on Sunday, kissing the Jamaican flag and Puma logo on his vest, while Gatlin stared ahead.
This was solely Bolt versus Gatlin, the others sprinting for the scraps, with South Africa’s Anaso Jobodwana taking bronze and Britain’s Zharnel Hughes, who trains with Bolt, just failing to become the third Briton under 20 seconds with a personal best of 20.02sec in fifth place.
The 20-year-old Hughes said: “I wish I would have gotten a medal but I guess it’s just not my time yet. I’ll be patient and come again. This one is just like in school, sometimes you fail your exams, you study again and come back.”
For all the wonders that Bolt has produced at the Bird’s Nest stadium there is the suggestion that his powers might be marginally on the wane and a rivalry with Gatlin might be one for the ages when the focus shifts to the Rio Olympics next year, which, Bolt hinted, could be the end, having previously alluded to plans to run at the next World Championships in London in 2017.
But for now, the only man to take down Bolt bar himself – he was disqualified for a false start in the 100m at the World Championships in Daegu in 2011 – is a Segway-riding cameraman, which is remarkable considering Gatlin had arrived in Beijing unbeaten in 27 races over 100m and 200m.
Part three looms in the 4x100m but there is no guarantee that it will be Bolt v Gatlin exactly, the American having opted out of the anchor leg when the US beat Jamaica at the World Relays in the Bahamas in May.
While a fall dominated the aftermath of the Bolt show, a hop, skip and jump was for many the performance of the night as Christian Taylor came within a whisker of breaking Jonathan Edwards’ 20-year-old triple jump world record.
Lying in second place, the American produced a final jump of 18.21m, the second longest of all time and just eight centimetres behind the mark of Edwards, who was seen commentating nervously from the stands.
Taylor said: “It was a great fight but, when you’re that close to the record, it makes you even hungrier so I’m looking forward to Rio.”
Although Taylor provided a dramatic finale, the night as ever belonged to Bolt. The sceptics were there again beforehand but they have their answer now. Amid Segways and spike stealing, he insisted: “It was never in doubt.”Reuse content