Forget Justin Gatlin, (chances are you already have). The Men’s 100m Final in the 2017 World Athletics Championships was only ever going to be about one man. Ironically, the failure of a certain Jamaican to bolster his tally of gold medals only increased the glory of his swan song. Had he cruised to victory as he has so often done, the global athletics community would have lauded his qualities one last time: his longevity, his ability to deliver when it matters most, and his incomparable speed. An unfamiliar bronze allowed us to see yet another admirable characteristic before he settles down and retires: graciousness in Defeat.

It is often the case that chronic winners get to where they are out of a hatred of losing, a trait which can show its ugly side when the result doesn’t go as expected. How many times have we seen leading football managers such as Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho sourly berate referees when their teams haven’t quite been good enough to deliver a victory? Even when such gripes don’t come to the surface, it is commonplace to see top competitors fall to the ground in despair, inconsolable not to have reaped the rewards of their efforts. Not Usain Bolt.


Bolt’s acknowledgement of his victor epitomised everything that is good about sport. Rather than lament his failure to win a race we all know he desperately wanted to win, he walked straight to the kneeling Gatlin and congratulated the controversial American with a lengthy embrace, before also hugging silver medallist Christian Coleman.

He then set off on his lap of honour with that same smile that has graced track and field for so long, giving delighted fans as much time as they wanted. His donning of the Union Jack alongside his native flag as he executed his trademark pose was a touching nod to a country in which he has such fond memories.

What his actions ultimately proved is that he remains a shining ambassador for his sport whether triumphant or not.

That he finally missed out on gold after so many successes made it possible to witness this attribute, so maybe, at last, athletics has something to thank Justin Gatlin for.


If any gratitude is to go in Gatlin’s direction, it is fitting that it should only be for allowing us to see another side of Bolt. That the former will never be the latter’s equal on the track was proven post-race.

As the world record holder cheerily made his way around the stands he was a magnet as usual for the cameras, drawing a tumultuous reception from the London crowd. When the cameras broadcasting the IAAF’s live YouTube stream briefly switched to Coleman, he too was being warmly applauded, albeit without coming close to the adulation heaped on the man who had crossed the finish line 0.01 seconds after him. The reaction to the gold medallist was coldly indifferent at best, with at least one spectator visibly chanting the word ‘cheat!’ at him.

The contrast in how the first and third placed sprinters were received shows how this single race lacks the significance to rewrite either man’s history. One is a recurring user of performance-enhancing drugs, who can count himself extremely fortunate to still be allowed to compete.

The other is an inspirational champion, the greatest there has ever been on the male sprinting circuit. His reaction to finally being vanquished only increased his magnificence, as we saw that he can not only win like a sporting hero but lose like one too.

On Saturday, August 12, the penultimate day of these championships, Jamaica’s favourite lightning bolt will strike one last time, as part of the 4X100m relay. We don’t know what the result will be in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, but we do know, thanks to his exploits on the second day of action, that those present in the Stratford stadium will see a legend bow out with class. And that, as the world’s athletics fans say a collective ‘Thank you Usain’, means more than another medal ever could.