BEIJING (Reuters) - Usain Bolt delivered Justin Gatlin a second knockout blow in five days to win his fourth straight 200 meters world title on Thursday and prove that when it comes to major championship sprinting, he simply has no peer.
In the seven years since the Jamaican first lit up the Bird’s Nest at the 2008 Olympics, a disqualification in the 100 meters at the 2011 world championships is the only blemish on an otherwise perfect record in major global races.
Six Olympic golds and now 10 at the worlds are glistening metal proof of his ability to get the best out of his huge natural talent when the stakes are highest.
It was all supposed to be different this time around, however.
Bolt has struggled with pelvic problems this year and been burdened with the unwanted task of ‘saving’ athletics after allegations of widespread doping in the sport dominated the month leading up to the championships.
Gatlin, 33, is in the form of his life and their showdowns in the two sprints in Beijing were the most highly anticipated contests of the championships.
Yet, when it came to the crunch, Bolt brushed all that and Gatlin aside, digging deep to win the 100 meters by a hundredth of a second on Sunday and his pet event by almost 2/10ths of a second on Thursday.
“This season a lot of people have been doubting me and saying I’m going to lose. I’ve just shown my championship potential,” the 29-year-old told reporters after clocking 19.55 seconds, the best time in the world this season.
“The 100 is really for the people and for my coach and the 200 is for me because I really put my heart into perfecting the 200. It means a lot more to me than anything else.”
Bolt said it was vital he was not behind at the bend and after a strong start he had his nose just in front of Gatlin as the field tore into the straight.
The American looked as if he was gaining on his rival just after the turn but Bolt puffed out his cheeks and lengthened his stride to pull clear.
Gatlin, who has been cast as a pantomime villain because of his two failed drug tests, said he hoped his two silver medals in Beijing would prove he was a very good athlete.
“It was never my attempt to come to the championships to win over any fans,” he said.
“My attempt was to come here to compete to the best of my abilities. I think the people saw a different view of me. I am just a competitor.
“I have no ill will toward Usain. I have no ill will toward anybody. We work very hard to stay away from injury and just get out there and run nine seconds and run 19 seconds.
“I think that mission was accomplished.”
Anaso Jobodwana took bronze in 19.87 for South Africa ahead of Panama’s Alonso Edward who was awarded the same time but lost out on a medal by 2/1,000ths of a second.
With four 200 meters gold medals from world championships and Olympic Games, Allyson Felix is another proven performer and she showed she was just as effective at double the distance by winning her first 400 crown.
The American set off at a stunning pace and built a huge lead she was able to defend over the last 100, edging out Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas after clocking 49.26 seconds, the fastest time in the world this season.
While admitting to “bitter” feelings about missing the 200 because of a schedule clash, Felix was delighted with her ninth world championship gold.
“It’s my first 400 title,” she said. “It’s a huge blessing.”
Compatriot Christian Taylor produced the second longest triple jump in history to win his showdown with Cuba’s Pedro Pichardo and claim a second world title.
Taylor soared 18.21 meters with his sixth and final jump, pushing Pichardo into second place as he landed just short of Jonathan Edwards’ 20-year-old world record of 18.29.
“When you’re that close to a record it makes you even hungrier for the next time you compete,” he said.
World record holder Anita Wlodarczyk’s victorious throw in the hammer was also the second best of all time as she seized her second world title.
The 30-year-old Pole is the only woman who has thrown the hammer beyond 80 meters and did it twice on Thursday, winning with her fourth effort of 80.85 meters.
“The title, the world record, I cannot ask for more this year,” Wlodarczyk said after falling shy of the 81.08 she threw earlier this month.
Not everything goes entirely the way of even the greatest champions, however, as Bolt discovered when a cameraman and his Segway collided into him on his lap of honor.
Bolt was knocked to the ground but sustained only minor cuts, joking that he was trying to start a rumor Gatlin had paid the man to do it.
“I want my money back,” the American quipped ruefully.
Additional reporting by Judy Hua and Gene Cherry, editing by Tony Jimenez