The second day at the world athletic championship belonged entirely to the Jamaican super sprinter Usain Bolt. The most awaited 100m final took place in front of the packed crowd at the Birds Nest stadium in Beijing. It was the most memorable 10-second period, for which there had been a huge build-up over several months. As Bolt crossed the line ahead of Justin Gatlin, the roar was deafening and release of tension immediate. It wasn’t just athletes, who suffered from the burden of high expectations, the entire world athletic community was gripped by the oncoming thriller, billed somewhat melodramatically as a showdown between good and the evil. Yet, in the rather overplayed theatrics, the double Olympic 100-meter champion held his nerves and won in 9.79 seconds to Gatlin’s 9.80. The thrilling finish served as a reminder of Bolt’s peerless competitiveness and amazing athletic abilities.
The most talked about 100m sprint that took place as the last event on Sunday night at world athletic championship at Beijing turned out to be true to its billing. Months ahead, there were rumblings about the upcoming Bolt-Gatlin showdown, Bolt’s pelvic injury and Gatlin’s 28-race winning streak. That reduced Bolt to the status of an underdog and lifted Gatlin’s chances. The hyped-up villain’s image for Justin Gatlin didn’t bother the American, despite having been served the doping ban twice. On the contrary, Gatlin looked like relishing the tag of the sport’s bad guy. The two men had run fascinating heats on Saturday, when Gatlin had clocked 9.83 seconds to Bolt’s 9.96. In the semifinal earlier in the evening, Gatlin had further improved his time to 9.77. But Bolt was not alarmed. Though, the world record holder was short of practice in skipping competitions for many months, he had the inner resolve of bouncing back, when it mattered most. Gatlin, on the other hand, has been competing in all tournaments and he is already a Diamond League leader this year. But when it finally came to the crunch, the Jamaican didn’t disappoint.
The 100m race had drawn so much world attention that a definite tightness hung in the air before its start. Lot of people thought that Gatlin was unbeatable and if Bolt won the race, it might be a miracle. Minutes before the athletes lined up and introduced, a Chinese gentleman played a piano. It was later revealed that the guy is the world’s pianist. It was perhaps the organizers’ decision to announce the big battle between Bolt and Gatlin. Of the nine competitors in the 100-meter final, only two mattered to the whole world; Bolt in lane-5 and Gatlin in lane-7. Others were regarded as those, who would also run. On the pistol, they were off. Bolt and Gatlin made a great start off the blocks and they flew. The two men matched stride for stride until 10 meters were left. Suddenly, Justin Gatlin fell apart as he stumbled at the crunch time. Bolt was whizzing away and Gatlin’s off-balance stance pulled him back even as the Jamaican breezed through in 9.79. Gatlin was 0.01 second behind at 9.80. There were two bronze medalists as USA’s Trayvon Bromell and Canada’s Andre De Grasse both clocked 9.92.
Later this week, Bolt will also compete in the 200m and after his marvelous victory on Sunday his confidence would have zoomed. Of his nine world championship gold medals, three have come in 100m sprints. Incidentally, it was the same Birds Nest stadium in 2008 Beijing Olympics that Usain Bolt announced his arrival on the world athletic scene with 2 gold medals and 2 world records.