Usain Bolt says Justin Gatlin is ‘an excellent person’ after 100m upset
The American pipped Bolt and Christian Coleman to the world title in London
Jamaica’s Usain Bolt poses after taking the third place in the men’s 100m final at the London 2017 IAAF World Championships. Photo: Sean Dempsey/EPA
Justin Gatlin gatecrashed Usain Bolt’s finale and shocked the London Stadium crowd by claiming the 100 metres crown at the World Championships on Saturday evening.
The 35-year-old Gatlin — booed throughout after his previous doping bans — won a highly charged race in 9.92 seconds, with Christian Coleman completing an American one-two in 9.94secs and Jamaican Bolt crossing the line in 9.95.
Bolt was aiming to claim a fourth 100m world title after victories in Berlin, Moscow and Beijing, but had another shocking start.
In what was his final global individual race, the eight-time Olympic champion again failed to get going after having poor starts in his heat and semi-final — fiercely criticising the blocks after Friday night’s heat.
The IAAF had dismissed his complaints, insisting the blocks are the same model as used as in Beijing two years ago.
He recovered in the second half of the race again but could not bring in Gatlin or Coleman — the fastest man in the world going into what was his first international championships.
Bolt told the BBC: “The start, it’s killing me. Normally, I would get it through the rounds and get better through the rounds, but it didn’t come together, and that’s what killed me.
“I knew if it didn’t come together (I would struggle), but I felt that it was there so the fact I didn’t get it, that’s the reason I lost, but it’s one of those things.
“It was rough. Up and down and a little bit stressed but I came out here, and take it as any other championship, and that’s why I came out here and did my best. You can’t complain about what you get. For me I just did my best.”
The result was not immediately clear, with the crowd waiting to see the scoreboard, but when it showed the result it left the London Stadium in stunned silence before they began to chant Bolt’s name as Gatlin celebrated and was in tears on the track.
Bolt added: “He is a great competitor. I’ve always said that about Justin Gatlin. You have to be at your best and I wasn’t and that’s what I respect about him because he competes and I really appreciate competing with him.
“He’s an excellent person, as far as I’m concerned. He’s good at it and just a good person.”
Gatlin’s celebrations were a sideshow as Bolt still took the plaudits and did a lap of honour, still playing to the crowd when the stadium was emptying.
The American was the pantomime villain throughout the competition, having previously been banned for doping violations in 2001 and 2006.
But the 2004 100m Olympic champion insisted he blocked out the jeers and thanked Bolt.
“The crowd, I tuned out through the rounds. I stayed the course, I kept my energy through the semi and did what I had to do,” Gatlin told BBC Two.
“The people who love me are here cheering for me, they’re at home cheering, my countrymen are cheering for me and that’s what I’ve been focusing on.
“It’s just a surreal moment. I thought about the things I would do if I did win — I did none of that. It was 2004 all over again. I won by a little margin so to be able to come across the line and have that excitement... It’s still an amazing night.
“It’s Usain Bolt’s last race. To be able to run against him through the years is just amazing.
“We’re rivals on the track but in the warm-up area we’re joking and the first thing he said to me was, ‘Congratulations’. He said, ‘You don’t deserve all these boos’. I thank him for inspiring me throughout my career and he’s an amazing man.”
Britain’s Reece Prescod — the only home sprinter to make the final — finished seventh in 10.17secs.