Jamaican Usain Bolt reacts after Men's 100m Final on Day 2 of the 2017 IAAF World Championships at London Stadium in London, Britain, on Aug. 5, 2017. Usain Bolt took the bronze with 9.95 seconds. (Xinhua/Wang Lili)
LONDON, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- On the very rare occasion in sports history, a bronze medalist received much more cheers and applause than the winner.
Jamaican "lightning" Usain Bolt lost his first ever world championships final to the rivals, in his last 100m race on Saturday while Justin Gatlin, 2005 world champion and at 35, emerged the surprise winner in 9.92 seconds, 0.03 seconds ahead of Bolt.
"The place is wonderful and I appreciated this crowd so much. It is just one of those things, thank you to London for all your love and appreciation," said Bolt, who was treated by the capacity crowd and the organizers as a winner, receiving undimishing cheers and applause from the adoring spectators and doing the lap of honor as if he had won.
After the race, Gatlin threw himself at Bolt on all fours as if soluting a king or being a little apologetic for ruining the Jamaican's chance of ending his career with a record fourth gold medal in the blue-ribbon 100m.
Although missing out on a golden finish in the individual race, Bolt, turning 31 next week, will still be regarded as the greatest sprinter in history.
For a decade, he has been this intimidating figure on the track for his opponents -- winning all the Olympic or world championship finals he was in, except one hiccup when he false started in the 100m final in Daegu world championships in 2011.
As his career extends, Bolt keeps making history, storming to eight Olympic golds and 11 world titles and holds the world records of 9.58 seconds in the 100m and 19.19 in the 200m.
His legendary achievements were well recognized by the sports world as he was named IAAF Athlete Of The Year six times and was a four-time Laureus Awards winner.
Athletics' world governing body head Sebastian Coe lavished with praises for him.
"He is the best sprinter of all time," the British said a few days ago.
"Usain Bolt is a genius. I can't think, other than Muhammad Ali, of anybody that has so had an impact inside or beyond their sport.
"You can have the Friday-night-in-the-pub conversations about who is best footballer or tennis player, but there is no argument about this guy in sprinting."
Admirations also come from Bolt's peers.
World and Olympic champion Allyson Felix spoke highly of the Jamaican.
"I think he's really changed the sport, he's brought a lot of excitement, he's a performer and we can all just appreciate it, everything he's done and given to this sport," she said at a pre-competition conference.
Bolt has won the affection of so many not just with his feats but also a charismatic personality.
He joked with Hero the Hedgehog and flashed thumbs-up sign to the crowd at the semifinals and made his trademark pose of shooting off invisible arrows despite the third place finish.
As Coe put it, what the crowd will miss is the personality, an athlete with humor, good grace as well as almost insurmountable sprinting achievements.
"We do want athletes with personality. It's nice to have someone who has a view and fills the room and fills a stadium," Coe said about Bolt who has 4,762,800 followers on Twitter and 18,775,000 followers on Facebook.
The talk of Bolt's imminent retirement has been dominating the world championships and the days leading up to the event. After London, the sport of athletics will be left with a huge void to fill for losing its most dazzling star.
If all goes according to plan, Bolt would step on the track of the London stadium again next week to run his final race, in the 4x100m relay. Then comes the time when Bolt retires.