Jamaica's Usain Bolt after crossing the finish line of the men's 4x100m relay athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 12. -AFP
Usain Bolt, running the penultimate race of his career, led Jamaica safely through their semi-final in the 4x100 metres relay at the World Athletics Championships on Saturday while United States ran the fastest time of the year. Bolt, who announced on Monday that he would also run in the heats, will race for the last time in the final on Saturday when he hopes to bow out with his 20th global championship title. Running the last leg, Bolt eased home, looking over his shoulder, as Jamaica won the second of the two semi-final heats in 37.95 seconds, ahead of France (38.03) and China (38.20).
Jamaica are aiming for a fifth successive world title in the event but will face a stiff challenge from the U.S. who won the first heat in 37.70 seconds, with Christian Coleman, silver medallist in the 100 metres, running the anchor leg. "It feels like second nature because we work well together. We are confident we can win. We will go and prepare well for tonight," said Michael Rogers, who ran the first leg for the United States. Britain were second in the first heat in 37.76, also faster than Jamaica's time, while Japan were third. Canada and Turkey also qualified as the fastest losers.
Bolt's presence ensured a capacity crowd for the morning session. "It's hard to be sad because of the energy I'm getting from the crowd," said the Jamaican, who suffered a rare defeat in the 100 metres when he took bronze. Tyquendo Tracey, Julian Forte and Michael Campbell safely negotiated the first three legs before Bolt steered his team home in a winning, season's best of 37.95 seconds.
"It's been brilliant. The energy in the stadium is outstanding," Bolt said, hailing the deafening support in the packed-out London Stadium "not just for me but the whole championships". Bolt said his emotions were still in check at the thought of bowing out of track and field. "For me it's hard to be sad because the energy I'm getting from the crowd is brilliant, I'm just happy. There are no words to describe how I am feeling."
Bolt acknowledged that Yohan Blake would likely come in for the final, all the while praising his less experienced relay teammates. "The young runners in our team - it is just about executing and coming through the race for them," he said. "We have been training that relay, there were some camps. Still there were some mistakes. Yohan Blake coming in for the final is definitely good."
Bolt's bid to retain his 100m title went up in smoke as American Justin Gatlin won gold, with Christian Coleman taking silver. It was the first time Bolt had been beaten at a major championships since the 4x100m relay at the 2007 worlds in Osaka.
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