Usain Bolt in the mens 4x100m Relay at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 (© Getty Images)
Come 9:51pm on the penultimate day of competition in the London Stadium, Saturday 11 August, it will be over for Usain Bolt. Barring a change of heart about appearing on the end of season circuit, the Jamaican phenomenon will have run the final race of his trailblazing career.
The chances are it will be a suitably triumphant finale for the Lightning Bolt, who heads into the individual 100m and 4x100m in London already with a record haul of 11 IAAF World Championship gold medals.
Bolt has not only anchored Jamaica to victory in the past six global championship 4x100m finals (four IAAF World Championships and two Olympic Games); he has done so with considerable room to spare. At the Olympic Games in Rio last year, the winning margin from Japan was 0.33. At the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, Jamaica won by 0.65 from China. The average gap has been 0.49, not so much a cushion as a sofa in sprinting terms.
In this period of Jamaican domination, stretching back to the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin, no nation has come within 0.20 of them. That was the precise gap at the 2012 London Olympics, when the US equalled Jamaica’s old world record of 37.04 behind the global mark of 36.84 that still stands today – to Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Yohan Blake and Bolt, who was timed at a scorching 8.8 on that rolling anchor leg.
Bolt has brought home the baton on all six of those occasions. In London, he will have a combination of Blake, Michael Campbell, Julian Forte, Senoj-Jay Givens, Tyquendo Tracey, Rasheed Dwyer and Warren Weir for company. Asafa Powell and Nickel Ashmeade, who both featured in Rio and Beijing, will be absent this time, so perhaps a lack of familiarity might help to even the odds this time.
At the IAAF World Relays in The Bahamas in April, Jamaica uncharacteristically failed to get the baton round in the heats. They were without Bolt, and Powell, on that occasion.
Justin Gatlin anchored the US to victory in Nassau and the former 100m world record-holder will lead the US squad again in London. Having been disqualified in the Olympic final in Rio and in the final at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, the United States will have a point to prove.
They will also have the chance to stop Bolt and the Jamaicans from completing a record streak of five successive victories at the IAAF World Championships. Jamaica are currently tied on four with the US, who prevailed at the first four championships: in Helsinki in 1983, Rome in 1987, Tokyo in 1991 and Stuttgart in 1993.
It is 10 years since Jamaica were last beaten at the IAAF World Championships. In the 2007 final in Osaka, Bolt ran a storming second leg and Powell finished like a bullet train, but their efforts were only good enough to take second place, 0.11 behind the victorious US.
Japan, China and Canada have been among the medals at the past three global championships and should be in the mix again – together with hosts Great Britain, who boast a world-leading time of 38.08 from the European Team Championships.
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF