LONDON – Usain Bolt’s unparalleled career ended in extraordinary drama on Saturday as he pulled up with an injury on the anchor leg of his very last race, the 4×100 metres relay final at the World Championships.
Usain Bolt is unable to finish his final race as he goes down with an injury. pic.twitter.com/98d9CjcRGc
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) August 12, 2017
The 30-year-old had taken the baton for Jamaica a few metres adrift of the two leaders when, straining hard to catch them, he stopped abruptly with a cramp in his left hamstring, began hobbling and tumbled to a halt after a forward roll.
As Britain went on to win gold, Bolt lay on his back in his lane, his head in hands, being tended to by medics as one waited with a wheelchair to help push him off the track.
Yet the sport’s greatest entertainer was determined that one of the finest careers in sport was not going to end with him in a wheelchair.
So the fastest man of all-time, surrounded by his three worried teammates, Omar McLeod, Julian Forte and Yohan Blake, rose gingerly to his feet and limped the last 30 metres to the line.
The official result recorded that the Jamaicans did not finish but Bolt had been absolutely determined to ensure he completed the last race after a matchless career in which he won 19 major championship gold medals.
Typically, Bolt’s only thoughts were with the teammates he felt he had let down.
“He kept apologising to us but we told him there was no need to apologise,” Forte said. “Injuries are part of the sport.”
McLeod added: “It just happened — Usain Bolt’s name will always live on.”
Thank You my peeps.
Infinite love for my fans ???? https://t.co/uu9dBdwLMH
— Usain St. Leo Bolt (@usainbolt) August 12, 2017
Justin Gatlin, the American winner of the individual 100 metres who had consigned Bolt to third place in his final individual race last Saturday, paid tribute to his rival.
“I think it was the elements (that caused the injury). I’m sorry he got this injury. He is still the best in the world,” Gatlin said.
How Usain Bolt’s top speed compares to Michael Phelps, a cheetah, and more pic.twitter.com/7pDkYq1YIB
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) August 13, 2017
“This is farewell time, I am sentimental about it already now. In the warm-up area, we give ourselves respect and greeted each other. Usain Bolt is a great athlete.”
With the 56,000-strong crowd going wild about the British victory, there was still time for them to hail the sport’s favourite performer, who waved to them a mite forlornly while hobbling away from the track.
— Joseph Fuller (@JustRunFuller) August 12, 2017
Five years ago, almost to the very night, British distance-running hero Mo Farah had broken into Bolt’s lightning bolt pose in this same stadium and the Jamaican had reciprocated with the Briton’s trademark “Mobot” to mark their joyous supremacy at the London Olympics.
In the same stadium on Saturday, they attempted in vain to reprise that triumphant night, Farah ending up with silver in his final track race, over 5,000 metres, and Bolt suffering his anti-climactic farewell.
Their leaving of the track scene leaves a void in the sport that does not look like being filled any time soon.