Jamaica’s Usain Bolt dances after winning his third gold medal, in the men’s 4×100-meter relay, at the World Athletics Championships in the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
MOSCOW (AP) — A barefooted Usain Bolt bopped and boogied his way around the track on a celebratory lap.
This was his party, his moment and his stage after winning a third gold medal on the last day of the world championships.
First, the Jamaican jammed to the reggae sounds of Bob Marley. Later, to a spiced-up beat that almost had him falling down — Bolt’s only misstep of the championships.
And when his celebrating was over, Bolt flung his spikes into the crowd. He certainly didn’t need them anymore. His work was finished.
On tired legs, Bolt grabbed the gold-colored baton for his anchor leg of the 4×100-meter relay Sunday and hurried toward the finish line as if he were being chased.
He wasn’t. At these championships, no one could keep up.
“For me, my aim is to continue hard (toward) the greatness thing,” said Bolt, whose team finished in a world-leading time of 37.36 seconds. “Continue dominating.”
He definitely accomplished that, taking gold in the 100, 200 and the relay. With that performance, Bolt became the most decorated male athlete in world championship history with eight golds and two silvers, moving past Carl Lewis (8 golds, 1 silver, 1 bronze).
“To be able to rise to the occasion when an entire stadium full of people are either rooting for you or want to see you fail and you’re able to hold it together, that takes talent,” said Justin Gatlin, who anchored the U.S. to a silver medal despite momentarily stepping outside his lane. “It’s about rising to the occasion. He understands what that means.”
Almost overlooked in the Bolt frenzy was the performance of teammate Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who also won three sprinting events. She finished it off by breaking away from the field in the 4×100, easily beating an American squad that struggled to get the baton around — again.
Originally finishing third after a bad exchange, the Americans were later bumped up to second after France was disqualified.
Still, the Jamaicans went 6-0 in the 100, 200 and 4×100 against the U.S. in Moscow. These days, the proud sprinting nation has turned the rivalry into a one-sided affair.
“As a country, we should be elated,” Fraser-Pryce said.
The Americans won an impressive 25 medals, eight more than Russia. But only six of them were gold as Russia edged them with seven, making it the first time the U.S. failed to at least tie for the gold-medal lead since the first world championships in Helsinki 30 years ago.
“Everybody is going to say, ‘Well, Russia had more gold medals than we did,’” U.S. men’s coach Mike Holloway said. “But if you look at the youth of this team, there’s a very bright future for U.S. track and field.”
Still, the relays are again a source of concern for the Americans.
First, a mistimed exchange in the women’s race. Then, an awkward stagger by Gatlin in the men’s competition. The night before, the U.S. had a shaky exchange in the women’s 4×400 final.
The absence of Allyson Felix didn’t help. The eight-time world champion tore her hamstring in the 200 final and was unavailable for either relay.
Also missing from the 4×100 lineup was Carmelita Jeter, who won bronze in the 100 but was banged up.
“We had to change the order after the injuries,” women’s coach Beth Alford-Sullivan said. “We’re not perfect out there, but we still held on to medal places.”
It took quite a finish in the women’s 4×100 to make that happen. The team was off to a solid enough start, until the pass between the second and third legs. English Gardner took off too early and Alexandria Anderson couldn’t catch up.
Gardner had to apply the brakes.
Anchor Octavious Freeman made up serious ground, but Fraser-Pryce was already way too far ahead.
In the men’s race, the Americans were in a position to possibly give Bolt and the Jamaicans a run for the title.
That’s when Gatlin stumbled, stepping momentarily into Bolt’s lane after the Jamaican surged ahead.
“I was able to collect myself, but it wasn’t enough,” Gatlin said.
As his team made its way around the track on a celebration lap, Gatlin half-expected a tap on the shoulder telling him the team was DQed for stepping outside the lane. They weren’t.
“I’m still happy the medal is still around our neck,” Gatlin said.
Matthew Centrowitz had quite a performance in the 1,500, surging down the stretch to finish with a silver medal, just behind winner Asbel Kiprop of Kenya.
The moment meant all the more to Centrowitz since his father, Matt, never got a chance to earn a medal in this stadium due to the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
“It’s still weird coming into this country and this venue, knowing that he would’ve raced here, 30-some years ago,” the son said. “Getting that silver medal was sweet enough.”
Too bad his dad didn’t get to see the finish. The power went out just as he watched the race at a sports bar back home in Washington, D.C., and had to scramble to find out the result.
“It’s awesome. Just amazing,” the elder Centrowitz said in a phone interview. “A silver medal in worlds? Just incredible.”
In other finals Sunday, Christina Obergfoell of Germany won her first major javelin title, while Teddy Tamgho of France captured the triple jump with American Will Claye claiming bronze. Eunice Sum of Kenya took the women’s 800 meters as Brenda Martinez of the U.S. wound up third.
But as at most major meets, the day belonged to Bolt. It was his spotlight and he enjoyed every step of it, dancing his way around the track to the point where he almost fell over.
“I just went along with the music,” Bolt said.