London – Usain Bolt had to settle for bronze in his last individual race as Justin Gatlin fulfilled a long dream when he beat the Jamaican icon in a major 100-metres final, winning a second career world championships title amid jeers from the London crowd.
Gatlin, 35, won in 9.92 seconds ahead of compatriot Christian Coleman (9.94) as the eight-time Olympic and 11-time world champion Bolt came third in 9.95 seconds after another slow start cost him dearly.
“My start is killing me. Normally it gets better during the rounds but it didn’t come together. And that is what killed me. I felt it was there,” Bolt said.
“It was rough. A little bit stressed. But I came out like at any other championships and I did my best. Thanks for the support. I could never expect this from any other crowd. They are what pushed me to do my best.”
Gatlin said: “It’s just so surreal right now – I jumped in the crowd and went wild. Usain has accomplished so much in our sport and inspired others like Coleman to come out and compete in the championships.
Elsewhere, Olympic champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia routed the opposition in the women’s 10,000m for the biggest-ever winning margin. Luvo Manyonga claimed South Africa’s first-ever men’s long jump gold and Lithuania’s Andrius Gudzius took a surprise men’s discus title.
Gatlin was world champion in 2005 and Olympic champion from 2004 but not adored by fans like Bolt, mainly because of two previous doping bans. But he is now the oldest 100m world champion and was embraced by Bolt shortly after the finish.
“Usain said: ‘Congratulations, you deserve it.’ And that’s from the man himself. He knows how hard I work. Tonight was all about the W (win) and I managed to sneak it,” Gatlin said.
Bolt equalled the all-time record 14 medals at the worlds of compatriot Merlene Ottey and can make it 15 in the sprint relay next Saturday which will mark his farewell.
It was Bolt’s first defeat on the track in a major final in a decade, since losing the 200m at the 2007 worlds to American Tyson Gay. He also failed to win the 100m title in 2011 but couldn’t run the final following a false start disqualification.
The 30-year-old was denied a dream farewell but it was surprising that Gatlin stole the show in lane eight and not the youngster Coleman. He is the season leader with 9.82 seconds and possibly a new star as he said he was “delighted with silver.
“It’s an historic moment. He’s (Bolt) a man who has taken the sport to a whole new level. He’s been an icon of mine as I’ve grown up. It’s an honour to toe the line with him,” he said.
Ayana ran away from her rivals after 4,000m and while nowhere near the world record she ran at last year’s Olympics she absolutely obliterated the field to win in 30:16.32 minutes – a stunning 46.37 seconds ahead compatriot ex-champ Tirunesh Dibaba. Agnes Tirop of Kenya took bronze.
“I am very happy to win this title, much more than when I won the Olympic gold because I have been sick this year and didn’t expect it,” Ayana said.
The Olympic silver medallist Mayonga won the long jump with 8.48m but American Jarrion Lawson was a close second with 8.44m in his final attempt, with bronze also going to South Africa in the form of Ruswahl Samaai.
Gudzius of Lithuania topped the discus with a personal best 69.21m, pipping Swedish season leader Daniel Stahl by a mere two centimetres, and American Mason Finley taking bronze.
Usain Bolt of Jamaica congratulates American Justin Gatlin on his victory in the men’s 100-metres at the world championships in London on August 5, 2017. Bolt was pushed into bronze in his final individual race before retiring. Photo: Martin Meissner/AP/dpa
In preliminary action, world and Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa strolled into the 400m semis along with Botswana contender Isaac Makwala, who like Van Niekerk is going for a 200m/400m double. Van Niekerk is seen as the new face of athletics once Bolt quits.
Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica and American contender Tori Bowie won their 100m heats; and title holder Genezbe Dibaba of Ethiopia had a lucky escape into the 1,500m final as a fast loser.
German Carolin Schaefer held a 22-point overnight lead over top favourite and Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium in the heptathlon.
The heptathlon is completed on Sunday as one of six medal events, the others being the women’s 100m and pole vault; the men’s shot put; and the men’s and women’s marathons in central London.