ALEJANDRO MUNEVAR / AIPS in LONDON*: Usain Bolt failing to cross the finish line of his relay. Mo Farah running his last track race in London. Justin Gatlin beating Bolt in the 100m; athletics history was written yet again at the IAAF World Championships in London. After ten days of celebrating the very best of athletics, the icing on the cake was the closing ceremony.
As per tradition, the last event of the competition were the relay finals, the men’s and women’s 4×400, where the last medals were awarded. With 10 golds, 11 silver medals, and 9 bronze, team USA was the star of the Championships with 30 medals overall, mostly earned in sprinting and jumping, but without stopping there. While USA topping the table isn’t unexpected as such, the surprising outcome is that they won 19 more medals than the next country on the medal’s table – Kenya with 11 medals in total.
To some, London has been the first time on the podium, but for Farah and Bolt, it was their last shot. Described as two of the greatest athletes the sport has seen, London saw both fall short in completing their legend status. Securing his third 10000m title on the opening night, Farah lost to Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris in his last track race, the 5000m final, due to injury. British fans said goodbye to this long-distance runner with a full house and a standing ovation when Mo said goodbye and, “I gave it my all.”
This could have been Bolt’s statement too. After dominating the sprinting word since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, his name has been synonymous with the sport. While London crowds welcomed him as if he were one of their own, Bolt fell short in 100m final, winning only his first bronze medal of the World Championship. However, the heart-breaking moment came when the all-time fastest man on earth pulled up in the last leg of the 4x100m relay, falling to the ground in agony. On the last night of the Championships, the Jamaican returned to the stadium for a final lap, enjoying the cheers he earned throughout the years. Despite the imperfections, or maybe due to them even more, the legend remains.
A name that London 2017 will remember well is that Isaac Makwala. The 30-year-old sprinter from the southern African country of Botswana, had the fastest 200m time of the year with 19.77. He was also the first man in history to run the 200m within 20 seconds and a 400m within 44 seconds on the same day, winning both events at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Madrid, just three weeks ahead of the World Championships, making him a strong the medal hopeful.
But following an athlete outbreak of the norovirus, and IAAF’s decision to ban him from competing in the 200m semi-final and 400m finals, reactions and conspiracy theories following the incident boomed. Was the IAAF trying to make things easier for a certain other runner, and in doing so create a new hero to be the face of the sport, after Usain Bolt? In the eyes of many that heir was, none other than Makwala’s biggest rival and eventual 400m champion, world record holder Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa.
Makwala, famously allowed to run in the 200 meter race managed only a sixth place finish in the final but its buildup will be remembered by the Botswanan’s now iconic solo re-run of the 200m heats, in lane seven, in torrential rain, to meet the time set to qualify for the semi-final, and final, and his defiant push ups after he finished the race will be one of the things to be remembered after this Championship.
All throughout the Championships , the crowds in London were to be desired, cheering for all the athletes who strived for their very best, except for one, Justin Gatlin. Being the oldest man in the 100m final line-up, the 35-year-old should have earned respect by edging his teammate Christian Coleman and Usain Bolt to gold, and reclaiming the world title after 12 years. He was however greeted by boos and jeers every time he stepped out onto the track, due to his history of having been suspended for doping twice. Should he have been given another opportunity? Even Bolt thought so, Gatlin said, “The first thing he did was congratulate me and say that I didn’t deserve the boos”
Kenyan steeplechaser Beatrice Chepkoech, with a personal best at the 3000m steeplechase of 9:00.20, surely knows the race by heart. However, halfway through her 3000m steeplechase final, she went the wrong way – forgetting the water jump. She ran in front position, and when she looked around, she saw her competitors jumping over a steeple she had somehow missed. After running back, she rejoined the group again, but tripped over onto the track in her flurry. Despite it all, she managed to finished fourth with a time of 9:10.45.
After the last medal ceremony on Sunday night, it was Bolt, one last time.’This is going to be an emotional period for me,’’ the Jamaican said. IAAF president Sebastian Coe presented Bolt with a special gift – a framed piece of track. The track had the number seven on it. ‘’A place you won many races on,”’ Coe told Bolt with a smile. In Bolt’s last lap everas an athlete he kneeled at the 100m start and raised his hands to the crowd. The entire stadium and London 2017 celebrated their hero one last time.
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com
# # # # # # # # # # # # # # #