Usain Bolt says farewell to the marks that made him
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Usain Bolt stopped every so often to soak up the applause and the cheers on his farewell lap of honour. He waved back. The accolades rained down from the highest points in the stands. Cameras flashed. This was the last tour of the most successful sprinter in athletics history.
And there were two special pauses. One by the mark for the 200m and the other at the starting line for the 100m. “I was saying goodbye to my events,” Bolt explained. “I’ve dominated them for years. They have been everything to me. I almost cried, but it didn’t come.”
Thousands in the Queen Elizabeth Stadium were in tears. It was that moving. And it was Bolt’s movement through 100 and 200 metres that brought joy to millions throughout the world and misery to his rivals who could not beat him in his heyday.
They picked him off though during his swansong in London. First the Americans Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman in the 100m final and then on Saturday night in his final race as anchor of the Jamaica 4x100m relay, the Americans and British got him. And so it seems did the poor organisation at the championships.
“We got into second call room to stride out which was fine,” Bolt recalled. “But we were taken to the area behind the boarding to be ready to run. But we waited there for 10-15 minutes.
"Why bring us out if we are going to stand there? They decided to do medal ceremonies. What am I going to do? We are athletes who are going to follow the rules."
Bolt pulled up with a cramp in his left hamstring as he chased Coleman and the British anchor Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake.
The Jamaican self-declared living legend ended up in a crumpled heap on the stretch of track where five years earlier he had scorched to victories to seal his ‘double double’ of 100 and 200m crowns at successive Olympic games.
Haul of fame
Last year at the Rio Olympics, he defended the titles again – an otherworldly ‘triple double’. The London world championships tally of one bronze and an injury was not in the script.
“One championship doesn’t change what I’ve done,” said Bolt. “After losing the 100m someone said to me: ‘Muhammad Ali lost his last fight so don’t be too stressed.’
“I have shown my credentials throughout my career so losing my last race isn’t going to change what I’ve done in my sport.”
The record books will show eight Olympic gold medals between 2008 and 2016 and 14 world championship medals of which 11 were gold all harvested over 10 years since Osaka in 2007.
The fans will recount the smile, the horseplay to the cameras and then the explosion of ruthless speed. “It is sad that I have to walk away now,” he conceded. “The support hasn’t changed. I feel so at home and welcome here.”
But he reiterated there were no regrets about one last year of competition. “My fans wanted to see me compete for one more year,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have accomplished everything over the years. If I could come out here and give the fans a show, that’s fine with me. That’s all I wanted.”
And the 30-year-old vowed there would be no comebacks. “I have seen too many people retire and then come back into the sports. But they often come back and do worse and shame themselves. I personally won’t be one of those persons to come back.”
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