Usain Bolt restored order to the world of sprinting.
Reclaiming the 100—meter world championship gold he lost through a false start in South Korea two years ago, the Olympic champion once again holds every major sprint title there is.
And he shook off rain, sore legs, a slow start and any doubters Sunday to prove there never has been an athlete quite like him.
“For me to come in and regain my title, it’s always great to be back,” Bolt said.
Despite getting late out of the blocks in the downpour, the Jamaican superstar steadily caught up with 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin and left the American behind with a trademark late burst of speed that, still, no one can match.
“I came out here just to execute and get it right and to win,” Bolt said. “That’s what I do.”
Gatlin made it more of race than many thought he could, staying ahead until the closing stages.
“They wanted an epic race in rain and they got it,” the American said.
If Bolt’s result was predictable, his demeanor was not.
At 26, he has left most the hot—dogging that has made him famous behind. While he used to start celebrating well before the finish on big wins, he remained expressionless this time as he ran across the line watching his performance on the giant screen in front of him.
It took him several minutes of understated celebrations before he unleashed the mighty “Lightning Bolt” pose that made him famous across the globe.
If Bolt did not produce a sense of theater himself, the elements did it for him. Lightning flashed over Luzhniki Stadium half an hour before the final, and the rain started pouring in as the finalists entered the arena.
To the cheers of about 25,000 fans, the stadium address system started blaring Bob Marley’s classic “Three Little Birds” and he was loosening his neck muscles to the lyrics, “Don’t worry, ‘bout a thing. ‘Cause every little thing is gonna be all right.”
It was for him. Not his opponents.
Gatlin had beaten Bolt in Rome early this season, and could take some hope from a blistering start on Sunday. But once those huge strides of Bolt started catching up with him, it was all over.
Bolt will now go for another golden triple, just like the one he had at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Games, and also at the 2009 worlds in Berlin.
Tirunesh Dibaba also made a golden start in her quest for a long—distance double. The Ethiopian confirmed herself as one of the greatest long—distance runners in history, right up there with former teammates Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele.
With three Olympic titles and five world championships since 2003, her pedigree is unmatched.
And Sunday’s race was easy for the champion. She was tucked in the wake of Japanese runner Hitomi Niiya for most of the race and let her finishing kick take care of the rest with 500 meters to go.
As hard as Gladys Cherono tried to keep up, the Kenyan had to settle for silver. Dibaba’s teammate, Belaynesh Oljira, won bronze.
It was also a good day for the Americans.
Ashton Eaton added the world title to his Olympic decathlon gold medal and Brittney Reese reigned over the long jump for the third time in a row.
Eaton blazed away from competition on the second and final day of the 10—discipline event and was able to cruise home in the 1,500 to claim the biggest title which had still eluded him.
A standout 110 hurdles to start the day allowed him to confidently build an increasing lead and he sealed it with a big javelin throw in the penultimate event.
Finishing sixth in the final race in the muggy heat of about 30 degrees C (86 degrees F) was more than enough for Eaton, who won with 8,809 points.
For Reese, it was another world championships of living dangerously, only reaching the final as the last qualifier.
On Sunday, though, a huge jump of 7.01 meters on her second attempt was good for gold, beating Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria by 2 centimeters.
At 26, the gold made Reese the defining long jumper of the past half decade with six straight major international titles.
She celebrated wearing a T—shirt that read “Unleash the Beast,” referring to the nickname she earned as a relentless competitor.
Also, host nation Russia won its first gold medal of the championships when 20—year—old Aleksandr Ivanov took gold in the 20—kilometer walk despite the heat and humidity.
The temperature wasn’t an issue for Bolt, though. And the rain couldn’t slow him down either.