London, United Kingdom | AFP | Usain Bolt’s dramatic and inglorious end to his top level career was the fault of world championship organisers, his furious team-mates claimed.
The 30-year-old 100 metres and 200m world record-holder collapsed on the London Stadium track whilst anchoring Jamaica in the final of the 4x100m on Saturday as cramp gripped his leg.
Bolt lay prone on the track but waved away the offer of a wheelchair and eventually, aided by his three team-mates, limped across the line before making a hasty exit — not the way the man who had won triple Olympic gold at the same stadium in 2012 would have wished his competitive career in championships to finish.
But his team-mates complained that his problem was caused by organisers keeping the relay teams waiting in the cold before their race as several medal ceremonies were held.
“I think they were holding us too long in the call room. The walk was too long. Usain was really cold. In fact Usain said to me, ‘Yohan, I think this is crazy. 40 minutes and two medal presentations before our run’,” said Yohan Blake, who branded the wait as “crazy”.
“We kept warming up and waiting, then warming up and waiting,” added the 2011 100m world champion, who also won Olympic relay gold in 2012 and 2016 with Bolt.
“I think it got the better of us. We were over warm.
“To see a true legend, a true champion go out there and struggling like that.
“The race was 10 minutes late and we were kept 40 minutes.”
Bolt may not have led Jamaica to a glorious finale anyway, though, as he took the baton well behind eventual winners Great Britain and the US.
But Jamaica’s 110m hurdles world champion Omar McLeod — who ran the first leg — likewise pointed the finger at organisers for denying his country’s greatest star a more fitting swansong.
“It’s heart wrenching,” said McLeod, who is also the Olympic champion.
“It was ridiculous man, we were there around 45 minutes waiting outside, I think they had three medal ceremonies before we went out so we were really trying our hardest to stay warm and keep upbeat.
“But it was ridiculous. We waited a really long time. I drank like two bottles of water.”
Their criticism echoed that of Justin Gatlin, who led an American 1-2 alongside team-mate Christian Coleman to deny Bolt a farewell gold in the individual 100m.
“I think it was the elements. I am sorry he got this injury. He is still the best in the world,” said Gatlin.
“It was a recipe. I don’t want to say this, I understand we need to be ready early, but I think we took our clothes off a little too early.
“It’s a little chilly in here so I think that’s where the cramp came from. That’s what he suffered with. He was running out there cold.”
Despite his relatively unsuccessful championships — in which he will exit with just a single bronze medal — Bolt will still be accorded a final lap of honour in a tribute ceremony before the curtain comes down on the world championships later on Sunday.