Bolt, the six-time Olympic champion, won in 9.77 seconds with a slight headwind, his slowest time ever in a major championship final but his fastest time this year. Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, took silver in 9.85 seconds.
Jamaican Nesta Carter earned bronze in 9.95 seconds.
Gatlin was better than Bolt in the early going, no surprise, but Bolt took control around 50 meters and ran hard through the finish for the clear win. He and Gatlin, who have traded words in the media, shook hands after.
Bolt was his usual playful self in the introductions, making hand gestures like he was holding a fake umbrella at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, site of the 1980 Olympic Games.
Bolt’s margin of victory, .08, marked his closest 100 final at a worlds or Olympics.
Bolt, 26, won the 2008 Olympics in 9.69 seconds (.20 margin), then a world record, the 2009 worlds in 9.58 seconds (.13 margin), a world record, and the 2012 Olympics in 9.63 seconds (.12 margin), an Olympic record. He was disqualified from the 2011 worlds final after a false start.
The event was missing the American record holder, Tyson Gay, out after failing drug tests in the spring. Also absent was Olympic silver medalist Yohan Blake, suffering from a hamstring injury.
That left Gatlin, who beat Bolt in a race in Rome in June, as the only man who could possibly challenge Bolt. Bolt had looked quite beatable early in the season and wasn’t too impressive in his first round and semifinal races, either.
But as we’ve seen for years, the Jamaican knows how to turn it on in major finals. Here are his comments to NBC after the race:
Bolt next takes on the 200 meters with heats and semifinals Friday and the final Saturday. He’s the two-time defending world champion in the event and an even bigger favorite there than he was in the 100.
Bolt’s biggest competition in the 200 is another Jamaican, Olympic bronze medalist Warren Weir. Again, Gay and Blake would have been medal contenders there. Gatlin is not entered in the 200.
If Bolt wins three golds in Moscow (100, 200, 4×100 relay), he will tie Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson with the most career world titles by a man with eight. If he wins three medals of any color, he will tie Lewis for most world medals won by a man (10).
Men’s 100 Final
Gold: Usain Bolt (JAM) 9.77
Silver: Justin Gatlin (USA) 9.85
Bronze: Nesta Carter (JAM) 9.95
4. Kemar Bailey-Cole (JAM) 9.98
5. Nickel Ashmeade (JAM) 9.98
6. Mike Rodgers (USA) 10.04
7. Christophe Lemaitre (FRA) 10.06
8. James Dasaolu (GBR) 10.21