DAEGU, South Korea // Usain Bolt and Kenenisa Bekele relinquished their world titles on Sunday when the world’s fastest man made a false start in the 100 metres final, and the most successful distance runner failed to finish in the 10,000m.
Disqualified for leaving the blocks far too early, Bolt, the Jamaican world record holder, left the arena grimacing and beating a wall with his hand.
He then watched in frustration as Yohan Blake, his Jamaican training partner, won in 9.92 seconds ahead of America’s Walter Dix.
However, the triple Olympic sprint champion quickly regained his customary cool.
“Looking for tears?,” Bolt asked. “That’s not going to happen.”
Bekele’s sad exit was more protracted. Unbeaten over 10,000 metres on the track, the four-times champion limped off the blue running surface before graciously stopping to talk to banks of television reporters.
“I didn’t want to miss this race because I thought I had a chance,” said Bekele, who had not raced since January 2010 after rupturing a calf muscle.
“I am glad I came, I wanted to try,” the 29 year old said. “I was out for two years.
“The injury is now better, but I am not fit enough. What will I do now? Just keep training.”
His title was taken, not by Mo Farah as had been expected, but instead by fellow Ethiopian, Ibrahim Jeilan, who overhauled the British favourite in the straight.
Blake was ecstatic after taking gold ahead of Dix and the 35-year-old Kim Collins of St Kitts and Nevis, the 2003 champion. “It’s a wonderful feeling, I have been praying for this moment my whole life,” Blake said.
“I just tell people anybody can do it, you just stay focused, pray to God. My training partner Usain Bolt was out and I got the job done.”
Bronze medallist Collins lamented Bolt’s disqualification. “As much as I wanted to be on the podium, tonight is a sad night for athletics,” he said.
America’s Brittney Reese successfully defended her world long jump title with her first and only legitimate mark of 6.82 metres. She is the first woman to retain the title since her compatriot Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1991.
Trey Hardee, another American, won the decathlon with 8,607 points ahead of compatriot Ashton Eaton, and Li Yanfeng of China took gold in the women’s discus with a throw of 66.52m.
Sunday night’s drama followed a milestone morning when Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee, made his championship debut, running on carbon-fibre prosthetics.
Redefining the concept of athletic achievement, Pistorius clocked 45.39 before 10,000 spectators, scattered around the cavernous stadium to witness the first amputee to race at a world championships qualify for the 400 metres semi-finals.
Those who did attend were rewarded with a memorable mental postcard, and they roared the 24 year old round the track, waving placards and screaming him home. “Being here has been a goal I have had for many years,” the South African said. “I have worked extremely hard to be here and it has been phenomenal to run today.”
In the 110m hurdles heats, Liu Xiang of China looked like the world and Olympic champion he once was, and remained on track for a star-quality showdown with America’s David Oliver and the Olympic gold medallist, Dayron Robles, who both eased into the semi-finals as well.
“It was just the qualification so it was OK,” the 2007 world champion and former record holder told reporters. “I’m relaxed and surprised at the results.
“I think it will take 13 seconds or better to win.”