LONDON – Japan won its first medal in the men’s 4×100-meter relay at a world athletics championships, finishing third after Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt, running the anchor leg for his nation, hurt his leg shortly after taking the baton and could not finish the race Saturday.
Shuhei Tada, Shota Iizuka, Yoshihide Kiryu and Kenji Fujimitsu completed the final in 38.04 seconds to claim bronze. Britain took the gold in 37.47, while the United States got silver at 37.52.
The relay bronze is Japan’s first medal at the ongoing worlds in London and follows the country’s silver-medal finish at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August last year.
“I don’t remember much about how I performed but I was able to run with a very good feeling,” said Fujimitsu, who anchored Japan. “I was running thinking about going even just a split-second faster. This is really great.”
Fujimitsu, who was in Rio but not named to the 4×100 relay team there, also said, “My desire to run in the event was fulfilled after a one-year wait.”
Japan raced in the final without Aska Cambridge, who anchored the team in the heats earlier Saturday as well as in the final in Rio, and Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, who finished seventh in the men’s 200 meters as the youngest finalist earlier this week.
“I came here just for the relay,” said Kiryu, who ran the third leg and was a member of Japan’s relay team in Rio. “I felt some frustration (when watching others compete in individual events) so I was really fired up.”
Iizuka noted how much of a difference good baton passes can make, as the Japanese runners in the morning heats struggled with the maneuver and clocked 38.21, third in their group and sixth overall.
Bolt ended his stellar career in excruciating pain.
The Jamaican great crumpled to the track with a left-leg injury as he was chasing a final gold medal for the Jamaican relay team.
Having to make up lots of ground on the anchor leg, Bolt suddenly screamed, stumbled and somersaulted as he came down, his golden farewell shattered by the first injury he has experienced at a major competition.
The 60,000-capacity stadium was primed for one last Bolt show, one last “To the World” pose after a victory, but the injury made it blatantly clear why Bolt is ready to retire. His body can no longer hold up.
“He is still the best in the world,” said Justin Gatlin, Bolt’s American rival who ended up with 100-meter gold and relay silver.
Bolt’s teammates on the once-fabled Jamaican sprint squad were far from unmatchable as well, and Bolt just had too much ground to make up in the final 100 meters.
“It’s a cramp in his left hamstring, but a lot of the pain is from disappointment from losing the race,” Jamaican team doctor Kevin Jones said. “The last three weeks have been hard for him, you know. We hope for the best for him.”
The race will certainly be remembered for the gut-wrenching way in which the sport’s greatest athlete was forced to end his career.
“It just happened,” Jamaican leadoff runner Omar McLeod said. “Usain Bolt’s name will always live on.”
Before Bolt came onto the track, he was consoling Mo Farah, his long-distance equivalent who had just lost his first major race since 2011 when he failed to get gold in the 5,000 meters.
Farah, also bidding farewell to the track, came up short of his fifth straight 5,000-10,000 double at major championships in a sprint against Muktar Edris of Ethiopia.
“I gave it all,” Farah said. “I didn’t have a single bit left at the end.”
Instead, Tori Bowie was the unlikely first double gold medalist at the championships, anchoring the U.S. team to the 4×100-meter relay title ahead of Britain and Jamaica.
At the same time, Allyson Felix, running the second leg on the winning team, earned a record 15th medal at the world championships in a career going back to 2005.
Bowie, who won the 100 meters this week, ran a strong anchor leg, leaving behind the opposition to finish in 41.82 seconds.
“Two gold medals is amazing for me,” Bowie said. “We are on top of the world.”
Britain took silver in 42.12 and two-time defending champion Jamaica earned bronze in 42.19.
If Bolt and Farah were about farewells, the decathlon was about renewal in the wake of the retirement of two-time Olympic and world champion Ashton Eaton.
Kevin Mayer is the new “world’s greatest athlete.”
The Frenchman produced a dominant performance over two days and 10 events, ending with a celebratory 1,500 meters.
Mayer won with 8,768 points. Rico Freimuth took silver with 8,564 points, while German teammate Kai Kazmirek was third with 8,488.
Mayer is the first Frenchman to win the title. He had only one scare during the two days of competition — when he scaled his opening mark of 5.10 meters in the pole vault on his third and last attempt.
Johannes Vetter of Germany won the javelin title with an opening throw of 89.89 meters. The German beat Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic by 16 centimeters. Another Czech, Petr Frydrych, took bronze with a last throw of 88.32 meters.