If anything is predictable in the world of athletics, this was surely it. Usain Bolt, a model of confidence and experience, strode to his seventh world title. By his side, or more correctly, some way behind, was Britain's Adam Gemili, who witnessed first hand the gap in class that separates them. That is no disrespect to Gemili, who finished an impressive fifth in his first major championship final, but Bolt remains in an athletics league of his own.
Should, as expected, he inspire Jamaica to gold in the 4x100m relay tonight he will equal the record eight world titles held by American duo Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson, and pass the overall men's record of 11 world medals held by Lewis.
It was Johnson's world record that Bolt had demolished, first in Beijing in 2008 and then in Berlin the following year but that mark of 19.19sec was never going to be bettered this time around. This was not quite Bolt at his finest and, although he had talked of world records in the lead-up, he was well short easing up over the line in a bid to avoid injury on the advice of his coach Glenn Mills.
Conditions were perfect and Moscovites finally turned out for the ultimate showman. Bafflingly there had been seats spare for his 100m final but the stadium was virtually full yesterday. And whereas for the 100m a storm lit up the sky, this time the skies overhead were clear but Lightning did strike twice.
Fittingly perhaps after his earlier title in Moscow, the race was effectively won after 100 metres, the Jamaican not really under pressure to push himself any further to the line, the smile of celebration breaking out long before the finish.
So superior is his bend-running that Warren Weir could not trouble Bolt, who won in a time of 19.66sec, the fastest time this year ahead of his training partner. But such are the remarkable standards in sprinting he has set that such a time seemed something of an underachievement.
"For me, I never stress about times and try to run as fast as I can as I know the fans want fast times," he said. "If I run 20 seconds flat to win 200 I'm OK with it because it's all about winning the gold medals."
It was a dream date with Bolt for Gemili and, if he was daunted, he certainly did not look it. As his name was read out, the 19-year-old from Kent beamed a smile as wide as the Dartford Tunnel, mouthing "wow" to the cameras. The challenge for him, though, was backing up what he had done in the earlier rounds, particularly with the fastest man on the planet inside him.
Going into the straight, he was in medal contention and, though he pushed for the line, his endurance slightly eluded him and he missed out on bronze, won by Curtis Mitchell, by just four hundredths of a second, the same margin that had seen him miss the Olympic 100m final. The greater frustration was that his semi-final time of 19.98sec, only the second time that a Briton had gone under 20 seconds, would have been enough for a medal.
But Gemili has every reason to feel content. Just 18 months ago, he was still lacing up his football boots. At the start of 2012, he made the transition to athletics full-time and, within six months, was within a whisker of making an Olympic final. A year on and a medal was almost within his grasp. Quite what he can achieve remains an exciting unknown, especially considering he underwent foot surgery five months ago.
"I was very close to a medal – just four hundredths and I missed out on the Olympic final by four hundredths as well, so it's always those fours," he said. "But as I get older and stronger that will hopefully come down. Hopefully I'll be up there getting a medal in future years."
Bolt admitted that he had only known Gemili as a 100m runner and said: "I'm still in shock that he made the final. In his first finals, that's outstanding – to run sub-20 seconds, that's so great."
But, for all the will in the world, the Briton remains a mere mortal on track against Bolt. While Gemili was left pondering his race and considering his future, the trademark Bolt celebration was in full swing. Even by his estimable standards, it was lengthy. Bolt had time for all and sundry, embracing everyone from his mother Jennifer to the British women's 4x400m quartet, who had earlier won a bronze.
His next goals are to stay injury-free and, long term, he stated: "My goal is to defend my titles at the next Olympics as it hasn't been done before by anyone, and this World Championships is a stepping stone towards that goal."
An Olympic treble will merely add to the legendary status he so desires, his aspiration to be considered in the same breath of Pele and Muhammad Ali. This was another title defence complete; Bolt will hope his beloved Manchester United can do the same.Reuse content