MOSCOW (AFP) – Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt lifted track and field out of the doping doldrums as he reclaimed his world 100m title in emphatic style on Sunday.
Bolt clocked a season’s best 9.77 seconds in heavy rain at the Luzhniki Stadium, with American Justin Gatlin claiming silver in 9.85sec and Nesta Carter, also of Jamaica, taking bronze in 9.95sec.
Athletics’ credibility had again been called to account in recent weeks, notably after American sprint rival Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell tested positive for drugs.
Once again it was Bolt, the powerfully-built 26-year-old world record holder in both the 100 and 200m, who came to the rescue, at least in the short term.
The sole blot on the Jamaican’s copybook since winning treble gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was a false start two years ago in the Daegu worlds that saw now-injured teammate Yohan Blake take the blue riband title.
The race itself was “classic” Bolt in front of a Luzhniki Stadium that was far from being a sell-out in stormy weather.
Modestly, but safely, out of the blocks, Bolt’s head and shoulders remained low as he drove into the opening metres.
While his reaction time might have been slower than all but one other in the field, he soon reeled in the opposition.
Come the 50 metre mark and Bolt pushed his huge frame through his renowed transition phase, head coming up and long legs pumping, teeth gritted and eyes on the big screen beyond the finish line.
He moved past Gatlin on his left and had a brief look over at Carter on his right before putting on the after-burners.
In the build-up to the evening session, the “Bolt effect” could be seen in the crowd, as one of sport’s biggest names once again proved his worth as an athlete and main drawcard for a track and field meet.
The sparsely-populated stadium had filled out and excitement grew as the race approached.
With Bob Marley blazing over the tannoy, television cameras picked out each racer, but played on Bolt in lane six, dressed in black and green shorts and the yellow and black singlet of the Jamaican team.
To the delight of the crowd, he mimed getting out a portable umbrella as heavy rain started to fall, drawing laughter and applause.
As the starter called them to the blocks, Bolt put a finger to his lips to hush the crowd, briefly crossing himself and looking skywards as the television zoomed in and his picture was broadcast on the big stadium screen.
The race didn’t even last 10 seconds but the gold saw Bolt also move within touching distance of equalling American sprint legend Carl Lewis’ record of eight world gold medals.