Usain Bolt insisted that he was still the greatest athlete in history despite his shock defeat to Justin Gatlin in the world 100m final in London. Bolt, who will retire from athletics after the 4x100m relay next Saturday, had been the strong favourite to win his 12th world championship title. But after making a terrible start the Jamaican was forced to settle for bronze behind Gatlin and his fellow American Christian Coleman.
“I’ve proved to the world I’m one of the greatest athletes,” said Bolt. “I don’t think this changes anything. I’ve done my part as an athlete, to uplift the sport and show it’s getting better. I can’t be too disappointed. I did my best. It’s hard to be sad with the energy that the crowd was giving me. They stayed and they shouted and they cheered.”
But while the 56,000 crowd at the London Stadium rapidly voiced their displeasure, booing the result loudly, Bolt hugged his rival and insisted it was wrong to focus on the American’s two bans for doping offences or to boo him. “I told him congrats and well done,” he added. “He’s done his time over the years. Tonight he was the better man.”
Usain Bolt added: “I put a little pressure on myself because I knew if I didn’t get my start and get into the race early, I might be in trouble. I got behind a little too much. I was behind and thought: ‘I have to work to get back in the race as quickly as possible.’ In the end, it wasn’t enough.”
Justin Gatlin, meanwhile, said the boos had not bothered him either. “I tuned it out through all the rounds,” he said. “I kept my energy in the semis and came to the final and did what I had to do. The people who love me are here cheering for me. People at home are cheering for me. My countrymen are cheering for me. That’s what I’ve been focusing on.”
The 35-year-old American also paid tribute to Bolt – and said that they were good friends. “We’re rivals on the track but in the warm-down, we were joking with each other. He said: ‘Congratulations.’ And said: ‘You don’t deserve all these boos.’ I thank him for that and for inspiring me.
“Usain is an electrifying character who has run sizzling times, mind-blowing times, and throughout the years he has always kept it classy. He has inspired me to be a faster, stronger competitor. I have only wished every year to be his top rival.”
The 2004 Olympic 100m champion added: “We have so much respect for each other. I think people in the media think there is some bitter rivalry where we hate each other but it is actually the opposite. We joke around, we actually have gone to parties together. We keep it low key but it is a gentleman’s rivalry. I have a lot of respect for him. Even me being older than him he is such an inspiration for me.”
The controversial American also indicated that he could yet carry on for another three years until the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, when he will be 38. “One millisecond when I crossed the line I was like: ‘I’m retiring,’” he said. “But my son wants me to go to Tokyo so I will take it year by year and race by race. I will see where it takes me.”