World Championships: Lightening strikes twice as Usain Bolt reigns as it pours
Jamaican rediscovers style to put Gatlin in his place in storming 100m victory in Moscow
the Luzhniki Stadium
Sunday 11 August 2013
Lightning really does strike twice. Just as the Moscow night sky was lit up by a thunderstorm, the lightning Bolt once more left the rest of the world trailing in his wake.
It had been far from a vintage season from Usain Bolt. The Jamaican had struggled to find his usual fluency for much of it, even suffering a rare defeat to Justin Gatlin in Rome. Lesser athletes have faltered in the post-Olympic haze and Bolt admitted he too had found it "harder to get motivated".
But when it mattered, on the season's biggest stage, the sport's biggest showman once again came to the fore with a season's best of 9.77sec in the 100 metres and the fastest legal time this year, with Tyson Gay's time of 9.75 bound to be erased from the record books.
Gatlin, who had feared the race would be cancelled because of the weather conditions, likened his showdown with Bolt to a heavyweight contest but it was less a rumble in the jungle and more Usain in the rain as the 26-year-old made light of the wet conditions.
To Gatlin's credit, he ensured athletics' blue-riband event was not merely a solo affair, clocking the same reaction time as Bolt to the exact thousandth of a second, and pushing him for much of the race before Bolt edged clear on the line.
It was a fourth individual world title and, astonishingly, his 12th major championship gold in all. More importantly, it made amends for the last World Championships in Daegu, where he was disqualified for a false start.
Typically, though, he was far from satisfied with his efforts, such are the imposing standards he sets. "I am happy but I wanted to do better," Bolt said. "I came with one aim, to regain my title, and I did that, so that's good. The world record wasn't on so I came out just to win."
While the night belonged to Bolt, British eyes were also on James Dasaolu, who made amends for a poor heat run to dip below the 10-second mark once again with a time of 9.97sec in his semi-final. It was enough for him to sneak into the final as the second-slowest qualifier, while his fellow British semi-finalists, Dwain Chambers and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, fell some way short in that quest.
That earlier run led to hope that Britain could aspire to a first 100m medal at the Worlds for 10 years, when Darren Campbell took bronze in Paris. But Dasaolu lacked the rhythm of both that semi-final and his previous 9.91sec at the trials in the final and came in last in a time of 10.21.
There had been injury problems in his preparations and his sprinting had been curtailed as a result. After the race, he explained: "My build-up wasn't the best, yesterday was my first time coming out of the blocks in three weeks, so I knew I'd be rusty. I didn't have all the training behind me so it certainly took a lot out of me and my body didn't have enough to give come the final. But I'm happy that I'm injury-free and I can continue with the rest of the season."
While the Briton looked nervous, Bolt was the complete antithesis, lifting an imaginary umbrella as the cameras homed in on him in lane six, smiling as he pretended to shelter from the downpour. The only crying shame was that the Luzhniki Stadium was not fuller to see him in full flight, about half of the seats realistically taken on what was unquestionably the biggest night of the nine days of action here.
Gatlin had said the absence of some of the star names such as Gay and Asafa Powell, out following their failed drugs tests, had taken the spark out of the race. But where once there was animosity between Bolt and Gatlin, there appeared to be a greater mutual respect. After the finish, Bolt went to talk to Gatlin, telling him: "I always appreciate competing with you."
A Gatlin victory, with his murky doping past, would have been a disaster for a sport and, in particular, a discipline still trying to claw back its credibility after the recent negative headlines. In some ways, it was the villain against the good guy, with good winning the day.
Gatlin had only qualified in fifth for the final but his time of 9.94 was just two hundredths behind Bolt, whose fellow Jamaican Nickel Ashmeade was the fastest qualifier with a time of 9.90. But Ashmeade could not get close to repeating that.
Bolt aside, the pick of the Jamaicans come the final was Nesta Carter, part of Powell's training group, with the bronze medal in a time of 9.95sec. Meanwhile, the level of Gatlin's celebrations for his silver, an improvement on last summer's Olympic bronze, suggested that, despite his pre-race boasts, he was never really confident of beating Bolt here.
Fittingly, there had been lightning when Bolt first broke the world record in New York six years ago with a time of 9.72sec. He has gone noticeably faster before, although could not tonight. The time didn't matter; the result did.
World wonder: Bolt in numbers
12 Major gold medals won by Bolt – six each in the Olympic Games and the World Championships.
17 Bolt's time (9.77sec) was the equal 17th fastest 100m of all time.
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