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As Justin Gatlin passed the baton to Tyson Gay with a lead in the 4x100m relay at halfway, he must have thought a measure of redemption was in sight. But if these championships have taught us one thing, it is this: never, ever write off Usain Bolt.
By the end, Gatlin looked on dismayed as Bolt stormed home again to win his third gold of these championships, his third victory over Gatlin and his 11th world title.
There was worse news to come for the Americans when they were disqualified altogether following a botched final changeover, handing the silver to China amid delirium among the home crowd.
If the sight of Bolt streaking down the home straight to in the Bird’s Nest wasn’t enough to induce a feeling of deja vu, then the British team’s own snafu on the final changeover when well placed to take bronze was even more familiar.
Afterwards, there were furious recriminations among the British quartet as they blamed a late switch to the team, with CJ Ujah coming in for Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and running the anchor leg.
Just as at the last two world championships and here in the Bird’s Nest in 2008, their failure to get the baton round cost them a medal.
Long after Bolt had joined his team-mates Nesta Carter, Asafa Powell and Nickel Ashmeade in wild celebrations the British baton was still lying on the track.
“It’s just heartbreaking, we were clearly in bronze,” said the lead-off man, Richard Kilty. “It’s teamwork. As soon as you start to switch things and take risks that’s what happens.”
For Bolt, who came into the world championships amid intense speculation about his form and under pressure from his 33-year-old American rival, there was no explosion at the finish, just a broad smile and a nod of the head, as if to acknowledge a job well done.