BEIJING — American sprinters like Justin Gatlin? Usain Bolt keeps beating them and then beating his chest, as he did in winning his latest gold medal, in the 200 meters at the world track and field championships.
But Bolt did eventually get taken down on the track Thursday night.
While Bolt was taking his latest victory lap in the Bird’s Nest stadium with a Jamaican flag wrapped around his neck, a cameraman riding a Segway scooter ran over a bolt — of all things — protruding from a trackside camera rail. That caused the scooter to veer abruptly to the right and clip Bolt from behind.
Bolt, taken by surprise, fell backward, landing on the cameraman’s legs. He ended up flat on his back before doing a cautious back somersault to return to his bare feet.
“He took me out,” Bolt said later, uninjured and smiling. “The rumor I’m trying to start right now is that Justin Gatlin paid him off.”
Gatlin’s deadpan response: “I want my money back. He didn’t complete the job.”
It was a lighthearted coda to a duel that had generated much weighty discussion this week as Gatlin, twice suspended for doping violations, faced off in two races against Bolt, the sport’s biggest star.
Gatlin, 33, arrived in Beijing with the fastest times of the season in both the 100 and the 200, but as it turned out, there was still no beating Bolt in the Bird’s Nest, the modernistic stadium where he became a star.
Bolt was 3 for 3 in his finals at the 2008 Summer Olympics, and he is 2 for 2 so far in these world championships.
There was near silence from the crowd as the eight finalists prepared for Thursday’s 200 final, perhaps because Bolt put an index finger to his lips before settling into the blocks.
But there were only roars and camera flashes after the starting gun sounded, and though Bolt and Gatlin quickly made up the stagger on the sprinters in adjacent lanes, Bolt — as usual — had the edge coming out of the curve. He crossed the finish line in 19.55 seconds, with Gatlin in second in 19.74.
Bolt had beaten Gatlin by just one-hundredth of a second to win the 100, but the 200 was a much less suspenseful affair as Gatlin was unable to approach his top time earlier this season of 19.57.
“He came through when it was time to come through,” said Gatlin, who was also second behind Bolt in the 100 at the 2013 world championships in Moscow.
Anaso Jobodwana of South Africa took the bronze medal on Thursday, in 19.87 seconds.
Bolt had raced little in the last two seasons because of back problems and other injuries, but as he had done in the past, he managed to peak at the right meet — after making a trip to Germany to visit his longtime doctor, Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt.
“He just fixed my injury,” Bolt said. “I had problems with my joints, and he just helped me to sort that out pretty much.”
Winning the 100 gave Bolt a mental boost as well.
“Winning the 100 meters always gives you confidence, without a doubt,” Bolt said. “But as I told you guys coming into the world championships, the only thing I was really worried about was the fact that I didn’t get to race a lot through the season. But the rounds really helped me, and the more I ran, the better I felt.
really great. I could tell my sharpness was coming back, and I was going into the 200 really confident. It’s my favorite event.”
Since his Beijing breakthrough in 2008, Bolt has swept the gold medals in the 200 at every global championships. Thursday’s victory gave him a fourth world title in the 200 to go with his two Olympic gold medals.
“The 100 is really for the people and for my coach,” Bolt said. “The 200 is for me.”
In total, he has won 10 world championship gold medals — one more than the American Allyson Felix, who won her ninth gold about 15 minutes before Bolt raced on Thursday.
Felix’s best and favorite event has also long been the 200, but with a double not possible in Beijing because of the meet schedule, she chose to run the 400 instead.
Her bold decision paid off as she won her first major 400 title, finishing in 49.26 seconds, the world’s fastest time by a woman this year. Shaunae Miller, a 20-year-old from the Bahamas, was second in 49.67; Shericka Jackson of Jamaica took the bronze in 49.99.
It was a much happier ending for Felix, who tore a hamstring in her last world championships final — the 200 in 2013 — and ended up in a heap on the track in Moscow.
'Man, it’s huge,” Felix said of her victory. “It was something I wasn’t quite sure of when I went down in Moscow, but I see it as a huge blessing to be back and to be back in top form.”
Over all, it was a much better night for the American team, which has endured a series of mishaps and surprise defeats. Shortly before Felix’s victory, Christian Taylor became the second-best triple jumper in history with an American record of 18.21 meters on his sixth and final attempt. The leap was just eight centimeters short of Jonathan Edwards’s 20-year-old world record.
The Americans have three gold medals and 12 medals over all with three days of competition remaining and, despite their stuttering start, still have a fine chance to surpass their total of six golds from the 2013 worlds, although it looks unlikely that they can match their 25 total medals from Moscow.
“I felt it was a good night for us to really pick things up, and hopefully tomorrow we can continue with that and on into the relays,” said Felix, a 29-year-old who has been competing at the highest level for more than a decade. “Tough start, but I think we are kind of rolling now.”
Bolt is certainly rolling, even if his times are not in the same league as his world-record times in the 100 (9.58) and the 200 (19.19), which he set in Berlin in 2009.
Bolt suggested after Thursday’s victory that this could be his final world championships. He had previously said that he planned to compete through the 2017 championships in London, but he is reconsidering that timeline and may retire after next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
If so, there is only one big world championship duel remaining: Bolt and the Jamaicans against Gatlin and the Americans in the 4x100 relay. The Jamaicans hold the world record of 36.84 seconds, set at the 2012 Olympics in London. But all four Americans qualified for the individual 100 final here, and Gatlin and the Americans beat Bolt and the Jamaicans this year at the world relays in the Bahamas.
“I’m sure they’ll come in with more confidence this time around,” Bolt said. “I’m just hoping that Justin’s legs are pretty tired now.”