Their defeats in their last races on the track on the penultimate night of competition served to underline their lambent genius over the years.
Bolt’s end was the more dramatic. The man who seemed to have an otherworldly deal with the time and space continuum was transported back to banality in an almost Faustian denouement. Not only was he unable to compete, cramp claimed his hamstring and he collapsed on the home straight on track where five years earlier he had surged to golden glory.
Kevin Jones, the Jamaica team doctor, added: “A lot of pain is from disappointment from losing the race.”
The 16th IAAF world championships in London had been sewn around 30-year-old Bolt and 34-year-old Farah’s last hurrahs. The script was pithy. For the former: gold in the 100m and gold in the 4x100m relay. And for the latter: gold in the 5,000m and gold in the 10,000m. And why not? It was plausible. After all, Bolt and Farah had done it before. Oftentimes.
But just like on the second day of the championships, the Americans bested Bolt. No shame in that though, the United States team has eclipsed virtually every living soul at the championships. Going into the final day, Team USA had amassed 27 medals comprising nine gold, 10 silver and eight bronze.
The shock of Bolt in a heap was mitigated for the partisans by the joy of witnessing the British men winning gold in the 4x100m relay ahead of the Americans. Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, a product of the American college racing system, produced a blistering anchor to edge Christian Coleman and seize the nation’s first relay gold since the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“Christian Coleman is a fast guy,” said Mitchell-Blake. “I knew that because we’ve raced a lot on the college circuit so I knew that I had my work cut out. It was a nail biter straight to the line and even when I dipped, I didn’t know who had won but coming out with the victory is something special.”
The 23-year-old Londoner added: “You dream of these kinds of things as a child to become world champions on home turf and we truly believed that we could do something special and we believed in ourselves.
“It’s been done with the support of everybody, not just our coaches or managers but our families too. A lot of sacrifices have been made to come to this point and to say that we’re world champions – it’s something I won’t get tired of saying.”
Mitchell-Blake ran past the melee of stewards attending the stricken Bolt to celebrate with his delirious team mates CJ Ujah, Adam Gemili and Danny Talbot.
Justin Gatlin, the senior of the US team, was, as always, munificent in defeat. “The best men won so credit to Great Britain. They ran a hell of a relay.”
Gatlin, 35, smiled wryly when reminded of the fact that he was on the US relay team when Britain beat them to gold in Athens 13 years ago. Turning to the British quartet, he quipped: “I bet you all were still at primary school.” Mitchell-Blake, CJ Ujah and Adam Gemili all nodded.
“You can’t take it from them,” added Gatlin. “They had the pressure of running on home soil and they delivered.”
Farewell to Farah
Farah delivered golds in the 5,000 and 10,000m when he ran on home soil in 2012 at the London Olympics. Actually, he damn well delivered everywhere. Golds over both distances at the Moscow world championships in 2013 and at the Beijing worlds in 2015.
The Olympic crowns were defended in Rio in 2016. A week after winning the 10,000 metres, Farah could only took away the silver. Muktar Edris from Ethiopia won the gold. But the fans stayed anyway to pay homage to Farah who will now concentrate on marathons.
“It would have been nice to win again in my home town,” said Farah. “But the better man won on the night. You have to congratulate him. Over the years I’ve been winning. I’ve been lucky to have that long career.”
Farah added: “When I looked at the relay and saw Bolt on the floor and the British winning. I didn’t know whether to be sad for Usain or happy for the Brits. Obviously it would have been nice for Usain to come and end on the perfect note … and as much as people say: ‘Oh Mo’s going to win’, it really doesn’t always happen. We’ve seen that anything can happen.”
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