LONDON — Injured or not, he would have lost. The man we once cheered was already gone.
Usain Bolt would have won. The Usain Bolt we carry in our hearts would have roared back from third place Saturday in the final race of his career, won gold in the 4×100-meter relay and engraved his legacy with one last thrilling victory.
Usain Bolt was not in London for the 2017 world championships. Someone else showed up in his place — this Other Bolt who finished third in the 100 last week, then caught a cramp in the 4×100 and could not finish the race.
Usain Bolt is the man with three world records, nine Olympic triumphs and countless come-from-behind victories. He’s the man who said in Rio last summer, “There was no one on that track that could outrun me to the finish.”
The Other Bolt was outrun to the finish three times in London — and that was just in the 100. So, when the Other Bolt got the baton in third place on the 4×100 anchor leg, it was clear he was not going to win.
It was the worst possible ending for an athlete whose performances and personality kept his struggling sport afloat. Despite this disastrous final meet, Usain Bolt remains the greatest sprinter of all time and one of the most thrilling and popular athletes ever. The memories of the Other Bolt will fade, just as they did of so many other greats who chose not to leave at their peak. Which is their right — to compete as long as their sport gives them joy, not as long as they show us what we want to see.
“No one wants to see Usain go out like that, with an injury on the track in that way,” said Justin Gatlin, who took gold in…