Heavy rain slapped down onto the Moscow stadium, and only an hour ago, the stands were half-empty. Not many spectators were interested in he likes of Dibaba (10,000m), a legend in her own right, instead preferring to enter only minutes before a 10-second dash that they had been waiting for all year.
Usain Bolt (26), double Olympic Champion and ex-World Champion in the 100m dash, was getting set to lighten up the dark skies. He had waltzed into the final effortlessly from his group, joining 2004 Olympic Champion and dope-ban-tarnished Justin Gatlin in the final, his only serious challenge. 4 Jamaicans made up the final group of 8, and eventually, 4 made the fastest 5.
Two years ago at Daegu, Bolt had suffered the biggest setback of his career when he made a false start in the 100m final, where he started as overwhelming favorite ahead of compatriot Johan Blake. He was disqualified, and Blake went on to win the title. Despite outrunning Blake at the London Olympics last year, Bolt was itching to win back what was rightfully is- the world title. In 2009, Bolt had made history at Berlin by running the first sub-9.6 time in history at the World Championships and winning his first world title, only a year after running the first ever sub-9.7 100m at Beijing where he announced his arrival as a 21 year old in fine style.
Coming into Moscow, Bolt was not in the dominating form one expected him to be. Gatlin was the only man to have beaten him in competition all year, but one suspected that his sluggish form was due to the controversies and doping charges swarming around the best of his competitors and friends. Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay (the second fastest man of all time) had been the latest athletes testing positive for banned substances- effectively half of Bolt’s competition and legacy- making for a somber year for the running stars. With Blake unable to defend his world title due to injury, Bolt was running for more than a gold or mere records. He was running for his sport, to bring back faith, to bring back grace to his sport- a run that he had restored so well back in 2008 when legends Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery had admitted to cheating to win their world titles. Bolt had been the star the world needed back then, and at 26, he would have to do it all over again amongst an unfamiliar field of competitors- with an ex dope cheat ironically being his only threat at the line. Gatlin had served his time, and his comeback has been inspiring for many, winning the bronze at the Olympics and the Diamond Meet earlier this year. But a gold win here would have only reaffirmed the cynicism of fans already baying for famous blood.
Bolt had to dig deep, and he did, storming home under bolts of lightning that lit up the sky, in 9.78 seconds- a seasons’ fastest, in heavy rain.
The stadium erupted, for a moment, forgetting the cloud tarnishing yet another sport (after cycling, cricket- difficult to keep the faith). Nothing is impossible, they had reasoned, after their yesteryear hero Lance Armstrong had shamelessly admitted to cheating to win his 7 titles. Bolt was, after all, as great an athlete and broke barriers as invincible as Armstong did. Somehow, somewhere, a lot of fans see the showman behind the magnificent machine of a body though, and trust the man for his talent. Bolt won back his world championship in fine style, ahead of Gatlin and Jamaica’s Nesta Carter. As usual, he will run the 200m and the 4X100 relay for Jamaica, and starts as heavy favorites in both events- gunning for another triple gold at yet another world event.
Nothing can stop him now. He has achieved all there is to achieve in his sport.