I know this won’t be popular. Usain Bolt has, almost single-handedly, kept athletics relevant and spread the sport across the world to non sports fans.
His appeal, presence and popularity has been totally universal.
In his final 100m race last night, the stage was set for a fairytale golden ending.
Until, that is, the erstwhile ‘villain’ of the piece Justin Gatlin came along and sneaked the victory.
It may have been the result nobody wanted but perhaps, just perhaps, it was about time he got the gold.
For the past 9 years, Bolt has been unbeatable in world finals. His record is sensational with the only blot being a false start in the championship final in Daegu 2011.
Gatlin has been right behind him every step of the way.
Now his chequered history with failed drugs tests is well known.
Suspended in 2001 and 2006, ever since he returned he has been subjected to boos and almost constant hatred. On the start line last night, the boos rained down when his name was announced.
He’s had that treatment across the globe since he returned to athletics in 2010. Abuse, vitriol and anger in a way that no other returning athlete has faced- probably because he has been directly up against Bolt and in the most high profile event too.
I’m not a defender of convicted cheats. Not in the slightest.
However, faced with that sort of abuse every time he’s raced for seven years coupled with the hyperbolic media narrative of good (Bolt) vs evil (Gatlin), you can understand the guttural yell of joy and shushing finger he gave after he won last night.
Throughout the unprecedented era of global sprinting dominance by the superhuman Bolt, he has kept competing, kept himself in the top positions and, ultimately, has secured the prize for himself.
It was meant to happen in 2015 when he faced Bolt in the World Championship final on the back of a 28-race winning streak. Bolt looked vulnerable but to the relief of everybody Gatlin overstretched, Bolt came through and “good” triumphed.
Last night, Gatlin got the victory he craved and took on the role of party pooper for the very last (admittedly the first) time.
And, having gone so close on so many occasions, it was probably about time.
It was just a Bolt from the blue that he ruined the retirement party.