Close! Men's 100m final at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (© Getty Images)
In 9.95 seconds, it was all over. Usain Bolt had run the final individual race of his unprecedentedly distinguished career. The fastest man in history had not, however, run fast enough to finish with another gold.
In a men’s 100m final that failed to go to script at the end of day two of the IAAF World Championships, the Jamaican with the Midas touch had to settle for bronze as the fast-finishing Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman completed a one-two for the United States.
At the end of a short farewell season in which he has been hampered by injury and rocked by the death of his great friend Germaine Mason, Bolt did not have quite enough in the tank to take his record haul of gold medals at the IAAF World Championships to 12 – although, of course, he will have the chance to do that in the 4 x 100m relay.
Having stumbled out of his starting blocks in his heat on Friday and finished behind Coleman in his semi-final (9.97 to 9.98), the 30-year-old Jamaican got off to another shocker in the final.
His reaction time of 0.183 put him significantly down on Coleman (0.123) and Gatlin (0.138) before he could even get into his running.
Running in lane five, Coleman recaptured a significant measure of the early-season form that took him to a 9.82 world lead at the NCAA Championships in June, leading until the final 20m.
At that stage, the charging Gatlin, running out in lane eight, drew level. And in the last 10m the former world record holder edged in front.
Runner up to Bolt in the last three global championship 100m finals, Gatlin took his first global title since the 60m at the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships in 9.92 (-0.8), not just a season’s best but also a world masters record.
At 35, Gatlin became the oldest winner of the men’s 100m title – 12 years after he won it in Helsinki.
Coleman, 21, claimed silver in 9.94 and Bolt bronze in 9.95, equalling the season’s best he set at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco last month.
It was the first time that Bolt had failed to break 9.80 in a World Championships final, apart from in Daegu in 2011, when he was disqualified for a false start.
It was, however, enough to take the 100m and 200m world record holder level with the Jamaican-Slovenian sprinter Merlene Ottey with a World Championships medal tally of 14.
Until tonight, Gatlin had been the last man to beat Bolt in a 100m race – in the IAAF Diamond League Golden Gala meeting in Rome on 6 June 2013.
Coleman ended that streak at 28 races in the semi-final and, having proceeded to make it a second loss in less than two hours for the Jamaican national treasure, Gatlin found himself as the first world 100m champion from the USA since Tyson Gay in Osaka ten years ago.
“It’s just so surreal right now,” Gatlin reflected. “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.
“Usain said to me, ‘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.”
For Bolt, it was not quite the same as London 2012, when he blitzed to three Olympic gold medals on the same track, although he did receive huge support from the sell-out crowd.
"My start is killing me,” Bolt lamented. “Normally, it gets better during the rounds but it didn't come together. And that is what killed me. I felt it was there.
"It was rough. A little bit stressed. But I came out like at any other championships and I did my best.
“It’s just one of those things.This place is wonderful. I appreciate this crowd so much.
“Thank you to London for all of your love and appreciation. It’s a wonderful experience. I’m just sorry I couldn’t end it on a winning note.”
After helping the USA to their first one-two in a World Championships men’s 100m final since Maurice Greene was followed home by Bernard Williams in Edmonton in 2001, silver medallist Coleman reflected: “Both of us have done well to come out here and get the win. I'm really happy for Justin to get the gold and I'm delighted with silver.
“It's an historic moment. Usain’s 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.”
Behind Bolt, his Jamaican team-mate Yohan Blake finished fourth in 9.99, with South Africa’s Akini Simbine fifth in 10.01, Jimmy Vicaut of France sixth in 10.08, Britain’s Reece Prescod seventh in 10.17 and Bingtian Su of China eight in 10.27.
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF