Usain Bolt felt he moved one step closer to legendary status courtesy of his thrilling victory over Justin Gatlin in the World Championships 100 metres final.
The prospect of Bolt and Gatlin going head to head at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium generated huge excitement in the build-up to Sunday’s race, with the Jamaican identified in some quarters as a potential saviour of athletics due to his rival having served two doping bans.
Gatlin appeared the favourite to prevail when he cruised through his semi-final in a time of 9.77 seconds, his assured performance in sharp contrast to the one Bolt produced when clocking 9.96secs following a dismal start.
Nevertheless, it was six-time Olympic champion Bolt who delivered when it mattered most, pipping Gatlin to victory by a hundredth of a second in the final to become the third man ” after Carl Lewis and Maurice Greene ” to win three world titles in the 100m.
Speaking in a news conference, Bolt said: “How important was it that I won? For me, it was very important. I’m trying to get to a legend status and so I need to win all of my races in every championship, so it was a big deal that I got it done and I’m happy with myself.”
The winning time of 9.79secs fell some way short of Bolt’s record mark of 9.58, set at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin.
Indeed, Gatlin has run faster on five occasions in 2015, but that mattered little to the champion.
“I don’t really care about the time,” Bolt added. “For me, it wasn’t the best race. It was sloppy but that’s just because it’s been a long season.
“I’m race rusty, so it was just a sloppy race. But the key thing was that I won and that’s what I did. ”
“I came here just to add to my status and my greatness because that’s what I want until I retire.”
Bolt highlighted the value of a discussion with his coach, Glen Mills, after he almost lost his footing at the start of his semi-final.
“We were just talking about the slip actually. He was telling me that I was thinking too much about the race and everything that’s going on,” Bolt explained.
“I just needed to relax and [I have] been on this stage too many times to be worried, or to be thinking about [things going wrong].
“So that’s what I did. I just stopped thinking about stuff, just relaxed and reminded myself that I’ve been on this stage too many times. So I was focused.”