When Usain Bolt lost the gold medal at the World Athletics Championships in London, I had to check if the sky was still blue or if it was falling. Like many others, I did not think his loss was possible, but we witnessed it. It was the first time in his illustrious career that he was beaten at the final of the world championships, or the Olympics for that matter.
It was also the first time Bolt took home a bronze medal in the 100 or 200 meter event (he came second in the 200 meters in 2007). Earlier Saturday, he finished second in a semifinal race, also a first for the eight-time Olympic champion. He was still widely expected to turn it on one last time.
Despite finishing third, the 11-time world champion would still go down as one of the greatest Olympians in history, and the fastest man of his generation. With a finishing time of 9.95 seconds, Bolt was a hundredth of a second behind American Christian Coleman. And Justin Gatlin was there to clinch the gold medal on a day Bolt decided to slip.
Gatlin, a 5-time Olympic medalist was subjected to boos and jeers from the crowd inside London Stadium as he was presented with his 100 meter World Championships gold medal after finishing with a time of 9.92 seconds.
The 35-year-old athlete who had be banned twice for doping, and has long raced in Bolt’s shadow said he dreamt about this day. He said; “I worked hard for this day. And it took for me to not be selfish and think about myself and think about others to give me that fight.”
“The first thing he [Bolt] did was congratulate me and say that I didn’t deserve the boos,” Gatlin added. “He is an inspiration.”
Silver medalist Coleman, who is just 21 years old and only recently turned pro after winning the 100 meters and 200 meters for Tennessee at the NCAA championships, beat Bolt in the semifinal Saturday afternoon in London. It was his first race against Bolt, who holds the 100 meter world record (9.58 seconds).
“You can’t call yourself the best if you don’t go against the best,” Coleman told the AP earlier this week. “I’ll be ready to compete. I won’t be distracted.”
Bolt will still compete next Saturday in the 4×100 relay, but has said multiple times that this would be the final individual race of his career. And fans have taken to various social media platforms, especially twitter, to voice their shock and disbelief. Bolt isn’t particularly young anymore. And his rather unprecedented loss on Saturday indicates this performance decline.