Brilliant Bolt bounces back to maintain his stunning championship record as he ends the winning streak of the unpopular Gatlin
Usain Bolt took one of the most popular victories in World Championships history as he demoted Justin Gatlin into second in the men’s 100m on day two in Beijing.
Having won his last 20 100m contests, Gatlin was the bookies’ favourite, but he was anything but with most onlookers. His two doping convictions and lack of remorse leave him hated in most quarters, but he had shown incredible form over the last two seasons.
When Gatlin clocked 9.77 to be fastest in the semis earlier in the day, it was his fifth sub-9.8 time of 2015. By contrast, Bolt had started his season badly and, though he showed signs he was on his way back, his semi-final added little to the hopes of the Jamaican’s fans; he stumbled out of the blocks and at halfway it seemed he may not make the final, before a stunning recovery gave him victory in 9.96.
In the final Bolt lined up in lane four with Gatlin two lanes to his outside. Reacting to the gun in 0.159 seconds, compared to the 0.165 of his US rival, he was away smoothly as Gatlin enjoyed what was, for him, a sub-par start. Gatlin had a slight edge, even until the last stages of the race but was for the first time this season under pressure as they both came away from the pack over the second half.
It seemed to be Bolt’s superior dip that gave him the win by one hundredth in 9.79, his quickest time of the year, as the wind gauge read -0.5m/sec.
This was not the dominant Bolt that we have seen since he first became a household name in 2008, but in many ways it must for him be the most satisfying of his 15 global championship victories, given his build-up. And the sport as a whole breathed a collective sigh of relief as Gatlin was beaten, following the recent negative publicity surrounding drug allegations in athletics.
With that win, Bolt became the second person to win nine gold medals at the World Championships – now the only holder of that accolade as Michael Johnson subsequently lost one of his relay medals due to a doping DQ of a team-mate. The only blip on his Olympic and World Championships CV since 2008 has been the 100m in the 2011 Worlds when he suffered a false-start DQ – otherwise, he has won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay on every occasion. If he adds the 200m and 4x100m golds later in the week, he will draw level with Carl Lewis on 17 for the record number of wins at Olympic and World Championships level.
“It definitely means a lot because I’ve been struggling all season,” Bolt told the BBC. “It’s taken me a while to work things out. It’s been up and down but it’s okay now.”
American Trayvon Bromell and new star Andre De Grasse of Canada could not be separated by the judges and shared bronze with 9.92. Mike Rodgers was fifth with 9.94 as Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Jimmy Vicaut, crossing the line in that order, all clocked 10.00. Home favourite Bingtian Su, who earlier this year became the first Asian-born runner to go sub-10, was ninth with 10.06, having equalled his Chinese record of 9.99 in the semi.
Neither British representative made it to the final: CJ Ujah was not far off his season’s best as he ran 10.05 for fifth in his heat and later world indoor 60m champion Richard Kilty went out with 10.20.
World No.1 Joe Kovacs won an exciting shot put final with 21.93m, beating opposition from twice defending world champion David Storl as just 35cm separated first from fourth.
It was Germany’s Storl, who so often has performed better than expected at championships, who took the lead in the second round with 21.46m. The next round saw O’Dayne Richards equal his Jamaican record with 21.69m to go into the lead.
Kovacs, the American who earlier this year recorded 22.56m to achieve the best mark in the world since 2003, closed in with 21.67m in round four and took over in front in the next with 21.93m. Storl came back in that fifth round with 21.74m to claim silver. Richards finished third. New Zealand’s Tomas Walsh added eight centimetres to his Oceania record with 21.58m.
Poland’s Pavel Fajdek had been a big favourite coming into the men’s hammer final and he justified that tag as he came away with gold after throwing 80.88m.
The reigning world champion, who had been unbeaten in his 15 competitions since March and led the world rankings by nearly four metres, recorded his ultimately winning mark in round three. It was a distance no one else had achieved this season.
Tajikstan’s Dilshod Nazarov took silver with 78.55m in the fifth round. He survived a scare when Wojciech Nowicki of Poland landed a big throw in the final round, which was eventually measured also at 78.55m, although a difference of 86cm in second-best efforts made the difference.
Britain’s Nick Miller had fallen just 13cm short of his national record with 77.42m in qualifying and that mark would have placed him fourth in the final. However, he had two no-throws and his third was only 72.94m, which meant he took no further part and ended up 11th.
World record-holder David Rudisha’s route to gold was made easier in the 800m thanks to the exit of two of the favourites in the semi-finals, Nijel Amos and Mohammed Aman.
Rudisha won the second semi comfortably, while pre-event favourite Amos of Botswana was just third in a race that was too slow to put him in contention for a fastest loser slot. He lost out by three hundredths to Musaeba Balla of Qatar.
In the first heat, won by Poland’s Adam Kszczot, Kenya’s Alfred Kipketer also went through by right in second. Defending champion Aman was disqualified for obstruction after a would-be qualifying run. With 200m left the Ethiopian tried to squeeze on the inside of Netherlands’ Thijmen Kupers but knocked himself back as a result. He recovered to place third and would have been a fastest loser.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Amel Tuka, the find of the season in this event, won the third heat.
Following world No.1 Bershawn Jackson’s exit in the heats, the 400m hurdles looks even more open after the next remaining quickest, Jonny Dutch, went out in the semi-finals. He was only fifth in heat two behind Russia’s Denis Kudryavtsev, who was quickest overall with a PB 48.23.
Also through were 2007 champion Kerron Clement, Ireland’s Thomas Barr, Kenya’s Thomas Bett and Boniface Tumuti as a quick 48.46 was needed for a fastest-loser spot. Britain’s Niall Flannery went out as he was fourth in his heat with 49.15 despite being only 0.37 seconds outside his best.
» See the August 27 edition of Athletics Weekly magazine for more in-depth coverage from the first four days of World Championships action