Nobody has been a bigger star on the track than Usain Bolt. Sure, it helps that he has one of the coolest names in sports, but he’s one of the boldest personalities the sport has ever seen, and he has obliterated records in some of track and field’s most hallowed events, including the 100m and 200m races.
So the scene in London, where the 2017 World Championships were being held, was electric for Bolt’s final individual race, one last 100m dash as a professional sprinter. He had a couple strong competitors in the field to challenge him, including a young upstart American, 21-year-old Christian Coleman. But he was clearly the star of the show, with the London crowd showering him in applause from the moment he emerged from the tunnel.
And in the end, Coleman wasn’t the only sprinter who got the better of Bolt. Longtime US track star Justin Gatlin—who was soundly booed by the London crowd before and after the race—finally triumphed over the Jamaican sprinter, handing Bolt his first legitimate loss in a major race. In a photo finish, the 35-year-old American came out on top, with Coleman and Bolt finishing second and third respectively.
To put the third-place finish into perspective, the only two non-wins in Bolt’s major-event career were the result of things that took place before or after a race, never during one. A false start took him out of the running at the 2011 World Championships, and after relay teammate Nesta Carter tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, Bolt’s 4×100 relay team was stripped of their gold medals from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Aside from that, Bolt has been perfect between the lines.
Yet even in defeat, love for Bolt would not subside. Rather than diminish what he’d accomplished by mocking his third-place finish at the World Championships, many fans saluted a track icon who had already proven himself many times over.