LONDON – Usain Bolt lost a race. Then he lost another one.
Bolt settled for the bronze medal Saturday in the 100-meter final at the world championships in London, his final competition as a professional track star, according to the athlete himself. It’s the first time in his illustrious career that he’s been beaten in the event’s final at the world championships, or the Olympics for that matter. (He did false start at worlds in the 2011 and was eliminated from competition.)
It’s also the first time Bolt has ever taken home bronze in the 100- or 200-meter event (he placed 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.
Instead, the United States swept the top of the podium, with Justin Gatlin grabbing gold in 9.92 seconds. Christian Coleman took silver in 9.94. Bolt finished 0.01 seconds back, in 9.95 seconds.
Gatlin, who at age 35 has long raced in Bolt’s shadow, reacted emotionally to the victory, letting loose a guttural roar as he saw the result flash on the scoreboard inside London Stadium, where he finished third at the 2012 Games.
“I dreamed about this day,” Gatlin said on NBC. “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 did was congratulate me and say that I didn’t deserve the boos,” Gatlin added (via BBC). “He is an inspiration.”
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) and is an 11-time world champion.
“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.”
He didn’t appear to be Saturday, racing to the lead out of the blocks, and nearly hanging on for gold in his first world championships.