August 12, 2013 – Bolt Races Amid Puddles and Past Gatlin to Prevail in the 100 Meters: Pictured above, Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrating his win in Moscow on Sunday. Need to get away from that disaster fast!
It will not rank as the most irresistible of Usain Bolt’s many major victories in the 100 meters. It presumably will not be the gold medal story he will tell first when he is old and gray and long retired in Jamaica.
The time was not dazzling by his standards. The atmosphere — despite the lightning bolt that served as the perfect punctuation mark — frankly was not, either.
The stands at Luzhniki Stadium were not close to full at these world championships, not even for Bolt, the biggest star in track and field. And as Bolt and the other seven finalists prepared to head for the starting blocks, the drizzle turned to heavy rain.
But Bolt has proved himself an all-weather sprinter over the past five triumphant years, and although he had to strain more than usual for this victory, he reclaimed the world title he lost in 2011 after the false start heard around the world.
Pushed hard early and late Sunday night by the American Justin Gatlin in the adjacent lane, Bolt had to be all business after his clean start: pulling ahead for good with about 35 meters remaining and then sprinting through the finish — his eyes fixed on the huge video screen in front of him — to win in 9.77 seconds.
Gatlin, a former world and Olympic 100-meter champion who has definitively rejoined the elite after a four-year ban for a doping violation, was second in 9.85 seconds. Bolt’s Jamaican teammate Nesta Carter was third in 9.95 seconds.
“I cannot forget Daegu, because all you guys keep reminding me on my false start,” Bolt said, referring to the meet in South Korea. “But it was not a revenge for Daegu. I just came here to win this title.”
Bolt will be an overwhelming favorite to win more in Moscow, with his preferred race, the 200, still ahead. A third gold medal, in the 4×100, also looks quite likely given that the Jamaicans had four men in the 100-meter final Sunday, with Kemar Bailey-Cole finishing fourth and Nickel Ashmeade fifth.
But Bolt’s margin for error in the 100 appears to be narrowing. Clearly the slight headwind and rainy conditions were not ideal for the time of his life Sunday: his 9.77 was his slowest winning time at an Olympics or world championships. It was also 19-hundredths of a second slower than the world record of 9.58 seconds he set in 2009 at the world championships in Berlin.
“I wanted to do a better time but was not able to because of the weather,” Bolt said. “Not singing in the rain but running in the rain tonight.”
But since Bolt won the 100 at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 by a margin of two-tenths of a second, the gap between he and the field has steadily narrowed with each major final. His margin over Gatlin on Sunday was eight-hundredths of a second and came only weeks after Gatlin defeated Bolt for the first time, at a meet in Rome.
Bolt, 26, is still in a sprinter’s prime, but then perhaps the world asks too much of him. He continues to do what matters most: win under great pressure and with everyone expecting it. He has now won two Olympic titles and two world titles in the 100.
“He’s definitely a showman; he’s a gamer, and he’s the best out there,” Gatlin said. “So it’s an honor always to race against him. Not only does he produce the best. He brings the best out of you.”
This was not Bolt at his most flamboyant, however. He still clowned around and mugged for the television cameras beforehand, pretending to open an umbrella and hold it aloft as he prepared for the start.
He also struck his trademark Bolt victory pose — Jamaican flag as a cape — after his lap of honor. But it all seemed more subdued than usual in the rain and with big blocks of seats empty at Luzhniki Stadium, which was no more than two-thirds full for what is usually regarded as the premier event of these championships.
Earlier, the Russians got their first gold medal of the championships with Aleksandr Ivanov winning the 20-kilometer race walk, but the Americans dominated the undercard for the men’s 100.
The Master of Disaster