The United States topped the medals table after nine days of riveting action at the worlds, held Aug. 27 to Sept. 4 in Daegu, South Korea. It amassed 25 medals, including 12 golds, eight silvers and five bronzes, to finish ahead of Russia and its 19 medals (9-4-6).
But it was Bolt who once again stole the show despite a false start on the second day that saw him sensationally disqualified from the 100m final, in which he was the defending champion.
The 25-year-old Jamaican, an Olympic double sprint champion and world record holder, put that behind him to retain his 200m crown in 19.40 seconds, then the fourth fastest time ever run over the distance.
He then went on to anchor the Jamaican 4x100m relay team to a new world record of 37.04 seconds in the final event of the Daegu showpiece, before turning his sights on next year’s Olympic Games in London where he plans to add the 4x400m relay.
It would give the Jamaican a shot at becoming the first man to win four gold medals in track and field at one Olympics since American Carl Lewis achieved the feat at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
There was more drama in Daegu when Cuban world record holder and Olympic champion Dayron Robles was stripped of gold in the 110m hurdles.
Robles was adjudged to have obstructed China’s Liu Xiang in the final. The decision gave American Jason Richardson the gold medal in a gripping race.
A performance to match that of Bolt’s came in the form of Australian Sally Pearson, who scorched to a time of 12.28 seconds — the fourth fastest in history — in the 100m hurdles, the world record in which dates back to 1986.
Bolt and Pearson were awarded the IAAF’s male and female athletes of the year awards, something that rankled supporters of Kenyan athletics.
Kenya finished third in the medals table with seven golds thanks to the east African country’s amazing strength and depth in distance running and a generally underwhelming performance by the Ethiopian team, for whom track legend Kenenisa Bekele failed to fire.
Incredibly, Kenya won seven of the 12 events for men and women from the 800m through to the marathon, grabbing 17 of the possible 36 medals on offer. The star of their show was Vivian Cheruiyot, who notched the women’s 5,000m and 10,000m double.
Four major stars to watch also emerged from the worlds: Kenyan 800m world record holder David Rudisha, Kirani James, the teenage 400m champ from Grenada, Polish pole vaulter Pawel Wojciechowski and Russian heptathlete Tatyana Chernova.
The worlds were also noticeable for the history-making appearance of South African Oscar Pistorius, who became the first amputee to take part in the championships, making the semifinals of the men’s 400m.
The double amputee who runs on carbon prosthetic blades also departed South Korea with a silver medal for being part of the 4x400m relay squad. He ran in the heat but did not compete in the final itself.
Pistorius’s teammate Caster Semenya claimed silver in the women’s 800m, eager to put behind her the doubts over her true gender that erupted after she won gold at the Berlin worlds.
The biggest doping casualty of the year was Jamaican sprinter Steve Mullings, who was handed a lifetime ban by a Jamaican anti-doping panel following a second doping violation in seven years. The two-time IAAF World Championships relay medalist says he will prove his innocence.
A world record came in the men’s marathon as Kenya’s Patrick Makau won the Berlin Marathon in September in 2 hours, three minutes and 38 seconds, smashing the old mark of 2:03:59 set by Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie in the same race in 2008.
Germany’s Betty Heidler also set a world record hammer throw of 79.42 meters in Halle in May.