The first sight of Usain Bolt at these championships coincided with Justin Gatlin leaving the track after winning his 100m heat. Suddenly the boos for the pantomime villain – a twice convicted drugs cheat – dissolved, replaced by cheers of ‘Bolt, Bolt, Bolt’.
The Jamaican wanted to sign off with one final 100m title to add to his 11 world and eight Olympic golds but admitted he needed to repair his relationship with the blocks.
- Left to right: Usain Bolt springs out of the blocks in the 100m heats; Bolt crosses the finish line to win heat six ahead of Japan’s Shuhei Tada.
Urged on by a delirious 56,000 crowd, Mo Farah found his familiar full-throttled sprint finish to claim another 10,000m world championship gold medal in 26min 49.51sec – his fastest time for six years – with Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei second and Kenyan Tanui third.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson finished fifth in the heptathlon, having to all intents bid farewell to her medal hopes with her collapse in the high jump. Afterwards she was close to tears but insisted it was a ‘freak’ failure in the high jump rather than psychological frailty that proved her undoing.
The Belgian Olympic champion, Nafi Thiam, was a model of consistency, winning with 6,784 points ahead of Germany’s Carolin Schäfer and Anouk Vetter of the Netherlands.
- From top: Belgium’s Nafi Thiam clears the bar in the high jump before going on to win gold in the women’s heptathlon; but dejection for Katarina Johnson-Thompson as she fails to clear a crucial height.
As a full moon rose over the London Stadium last Sunday, athletics’ greatest pantomime villain, Justin Gatlin, sank his teeth into the carefully laid plans for Usain Bolt’s retirement party. And then, in the last desperate steps of a compelling world championships 100m final, brutally ripped them apart. The 35-year-old American, who was banned twice early in his career for doping offences, is not necessarily the champion the sport wants. But given its problems, it is one that many will feel it deserves.
- Clockwise from top: Usain Bolt jokes around ahead of his men’s 100m semi-final; Bolt looks at the big screen to see that he has finished third in the final; Justin Gatlin stands on the podium with his gold medal; Gatlin has tears in his eyes as he celebrates with friends after winning the men’s 100m final.
Kenya’s Geoffrey Kipkorir Kirui prevailed in a compelling east African duel with Ethiopian Tamirat Tola on the streets of London to win the men’s marathon.
- Above: The front runners in the men’s marathon cross the courtyard in front of the Guildhall watched by just a few spectators. Right: Turkey’s Ercan Muslu walks to the finish at Tower Bridge after retiring from the men’s marathon.
In a stadium at 56,000 capacity Great Britain’s Sophie Hitchon looked to be in the loneliest place in the world after failing to win a medal in the hammer. The 26-year-old crouched beside the advertising hoardings at the far edge of the track, teary-eyed and staring into the distance, contemplating what might have been. Laura Muir was also close to tears after missing out on a world championship 1500m medal by seven hundredths of a second to South Africa’s Caster Semenya. Muir had led for much of the race but ran out of gas down the home straight and was beaten to bronze by Semenya, the Olympic 800m champion. South Africa’s Semenya later attempted to shut down debate over hyperandrogenism, the medical condition she has which is characterised by excessive levels of male sex hormones such as testosterone.
- Clockwise from top left: Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji puts her feet in the blocks for the start of a women’s 100m heat; Great Britain’s Sophie Hitchon cries as she leaves the arena after finishing out of the medals in the women’s hammer; New Zealand’s Eliza McCartney fails to clear a height in the final of the women’s pole vault; Great Britain’s Laura Muir falls to the track after competing in the women’s 5000m heats; Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson, the double Olympic champion, waits for the start of a women’s 100m heat.
- Above: Jamaica’s Omar McLeod crosses the line to take gold in the men’s 110m hurdles. Right: McLeod celebrates victory with his mother who is wearing a T-shirt bearing his picture.
South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk said he felt upset and disrespected by his rival Isaac Makwala who suggested he was part of a conspiracy that saw the Botswana athlete excluded from the 400m final. The usually calm Van Niekerk was visibly tearful and angry, speaking after taking 200m silver behind the shock victor, Ramil Guliyev of Turkey. He dismissed Makwala’s assertion that athletics’ world governing body, the IAAF, had unfairly quarantined him with a sickness bug to pave the way for Van Niekerk to take 400m gold.
- Clockwise from top left: Germany’s Rico Freimuth competes in the long jump of the men’s decathlon; runners wait in the heavy rain for the start of a heat of the women’s 3,000m steeplechase; Isaac Makwala of Botswana starts a solo heat of the men’s 200m after being given special medical compensation to compete; exhausted runners lie on the track after Wayde van Niekerk had won the men’s 400m final.
- From top: Athletes compete in a heat of the mens 5,000m; Trinidad and Tobago’s Deborah John falls during the women’s 100m hurdles.
Block by block the crowd inside the London Stadium rose like an advancing Mexican wave as Mo Farah sprinted past in pursuit of the Ethiopian duo ahead in the 5,000m final. So often they have seen him win from this position but after 10 straight global titles and four double golds, finally, he could not find a way.
Body heaving with adrenaline and emotion, he curled into the foetal position at the finish, beaten in a major final for the first time in six years. Silver on this occasion stung like defeat and salt was rubbed into open wounds by his conqueror, Muktar Edris of Ethiopia, performing the iconic Mobot at the finish.
The cheers have surely not been louder all world championships. But, dramatically and unexpectedly, this time they were not for Usain Bolt, who ended the final race of his career face down on the track and with his hamstring blown. Instead they rang loud and true for the young British athlete Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, who held off the American Christian Coleman to take the home nation’s second gold medal of the championships in a dramatic men’s 4x100m relay final.
This has been a world championships where many of the sport’s biggest stars have been knocked off their perch. Bolt. Mo Farah. Kendra Harrison. Wayde van Niekerk. All have felt the jolting sting of a rare defeat. Yet no one expected this. The Jamaican men’s 4x100m relay team knew they were one of sport’s great bankers, having not lost a global relay on the track since Osaka in 2007. Not this time.
- Usain Bolt pulls up injured as Great Britain’s Daniel Talbot, back left, celebrates.
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