Usain Bolt insisted he had no regrets after Justin Gatlin gatecrashed his farewell in the 100 metres final at the World Championships.
The Jamaican was forced to settle for third in his final solo race at the London Stadium on Saturday after also being beaten by the USA’s Christian Coleman.
The 35-year-old Gatlin – booed throughout after his previous doping violations – won a highly-charged race in 9.92 seconds, with Coleman completing an American one-two in 9.94secs and Bolt crossing the line in 9.95.
It shocked the crowd who had come to see Bolt sign off in style as he prepares to retire at the end of the championships – and the eight-time Olympic champion insisted the defeat changes nothing.
“No regrets. I came out and did my best, I was always to end no matter what happened – win, lose or draw I was always going to walk away,” said the 30-year-old.
“It doesn’t change anything in my career, I have done everything I can do for the sport and for myself. It’s time to go.
“It doesn’t change anything. I lost the race to a great competitor, I came third to a young kid coming up – he has a great talent and a great future ahead of him.
“No matter what happened this season I was going to come out and do my best. I did it for the fans, they really wanted me to do one more season.
“I worked hard, I’m definitely disappointed. No one is going to be happy they didn’t win but I knew I came out here and I gave my all.”
Bolt was aiming to claim a fourth 100m world title after victories in Berlin, Moscow and Beijing but had another shocking start.
He again failed to get going after having poor starts in his heat and semi-final – fiercely criticising the blocks after Friday night’s heat.
The IAAF had dismissed his complaints, insisting the blocks are the same model as used as in Beijing two years ago.
Bolt recovered in the second half of the race again but could not bring in Gatlin or Coleman – the fastest man in the world going into what was his first international championships.
It proved to be a race too far, the fastest man in history showing in his final individual race that he was perhaps mortal after all.
Usain Bolt had hinted he wanted to retire after the triple sprint gold medal at last summer’s Rio Olympics but, under a certain amount of pressure from his sponsors – who it has to be said have paid him admirably, he opted to run one last time.
Bolt is his own man and knew the risk he was taking. He knew that this was a championship riddled with the greatest doubt but in London, a city that for so long has been his European, summer base, he decided it was worth one more throw of the dice.
Was it? Perhaps not in terms of his position across the finishing line, his third place an unfamiliar one for a man that has dominated the sprint genre for so long, and certainly not befitting of a man with one golden spike on his foot, a purple one on the other – a nod to his favourite colour.
Inside that pair of shoes was a list of the golds he had won at Olympic and World level, the hope being that London 2017 would be etched into that in the aftermath.
But it was not to be. For so long, he has struggled with his starts – the one real frailty with his sprinting.
And in his final 100m, when it mattered, he had the most sluggish of beginnings out of the blocks.
In the past, his previous shortcomings in that area were made up by his supreme pace in the latter part of the race, those long, rangy legs cruising past the short, sharp, punching limbs of Justin Gatlin, for so long his closest rival over the 100m in particular.
For Gatlin, it was a last chance to upstage an athlete he had looked up to for so long, and had aspired to beat for so long, the feat achieved in the final, dying split seconds of arguably both men’s careers.
There was warmth between both men at the finish, a lengthened embrace and some words from Bolt, who has always been respectful of the American despite him being painted as a pantomime villain, booed at every pronouncement of his name.
Across the line, with the gold finally sealed, the boos were as rich as ever, the crowd making it clear who their favourite was on the final act of a Saturday night in London.
Instead, chants of “Usain Bolt” echoed around the London Stadium as Gatlin collapsed to the track, weeping as he took on board the enormity of his achievement in a season where he looked more likely an also ran than the closest threat.
For all the gold medals at both Olympic and World level, Bolt has showed one small chink in his remarkable armoury – his abject desire to strive for legendary status.
That was long guaranteed with the golds and the world records, not even Rio last summer was required to ensure such a status.
In London, yes, it was perhaps a race too far but finally he was able to appreciate that even as he showed weakness, he was perhaps loved more than ever before.
Bolt still has a chance for that golden finale, to bow out on the anchor leg of the 4x100m relay for the Jamaican sprint team.
On this occasion, he may have looked almost ordinary, perhaps even bemused that mother time had caught up with him, the legs not able to turn over as fast as in all those races before him.
But one suspects that Bolt, the ultimate showman, the man to have carried his sport for nigh-on a decade, has one final chapter left.
Win or lose, the legendary status is guaranteed.
American veteran Justin Gatlin was booed after he stunned Usain Bolt to win the 100m world title in London on Saturday.
Gatlin, who served a doping ban between 2006-10 and won silvers behind Bolt at the last two world championships, clocked 9.92 seconds, with teammate Christian Coleman winning silver in 9.94sec.
Bolt suffered a dreadful start and could only claim bronze in 9.95sec.