DAEGU, South Korea — Still fuming from the false start that knocked him from the 100-meter final, Usain Bolt crouched on the line and waited. Then he zipped off the blocks into the darkness of a deserted practice track.
There, only a short hike from the main stadium, he didn’t have to worry about jumping the gun.
Bolt missed out on defending his 100-meter title Sunday when he jumped from the blocks early at the world championships. He was disqualified by a highly-debated zero-tolerance false start rule enacted last year.
“He’s human, isn’t he? I always knew he was human,” said his coach, Glen Mills. “He will pick himself up. He’s a champion.”
Bolt knew instantly it was his error. Soon after the gun went off, soon after taking a few steps out of the blocks, another gun blasted.
Bolt’s eyes grew big. He pulled his shirt over his face, then ripped it off and whipped it around in his hand. Grudgingly, Bolt left the stage he has dominated since the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
It was left to another Jamaican to wrap himself in the country’s flag – Yohan Blake, a 21-year-old up-and-comer who former Olympic gold medalist Maurice Greene predicted to win.
Blake finished in a modest time of 9.92 seconds, 0.16 seconds ahead of American rival Walter Dix. Kim Collins of Saint Kitts and Nevis, the 2003 world champion and now an aging 35-year-old veteran, was third.
“Definitely, I wasn’t focusing on beating Usain,” Blake said. “I was just focusing on finishing in the top three.”
Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter known as the “Blade Runner,” showed he belongs on the same track with able-bodied athletes at big meets. Springing along on his carbon-fiber blades, Pistorius advanced to the semifinals of the 400.
“A big sense of relief,” he said.
On the track, it was a big show for the Americans. Defending champion Trey Hardee and Ashton Eaton gave the U.S. its first 1-2 decathlon finish at the worlds. Brittney Reese defended her long jump title, and Allyson Felix breezed into the finals of the 400 with an easy win in her heat.
This entire competition was setting up as a stroll for Bolt. Jamaican teammate Asafa Powell withdrew just before the event began because of a groin injury, and American rival Tyson Gay was out with a hip injury. Bolt cruised through his previous two rounds.
“Looking for tears? Not going to happen,” said Bolt, his agitation beginning to subside. “I’m OK.”
Enough to run the 200 meters?
“You’ll see on Friday,” he said.
When asked whether the false-start rule should be changed, Bolt remained silent.
“I didn’t really think they were going to kick him out,” Dix said. “How can you kick Usain out of the race?”
Other winners were Ibrahim Jeilan of Ethiopia (10,000), Valeriy Borchin of Russia (20-kilometer walk) and Li Yanfeng of China (discus).
“I didn’t expect that from him,” Blake said of Bolt. “I had to just keep my head, keep the focus and get the job done for Jamaica.”
Leading to the worlds, Dix, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist, said he was in the kind of shape to possibly upset Bolt. Only he didn’t count on Blake, or being so hesitant after the ousting of Bolt.
“You kind of wanted to sit in the blocks and not move,” Dix said. “I definitely thought I could have been more competitive than running from the back. It was great to put the U.S. back on the medal stand.”