Meanwhile, Bolt’s teammates rushed to help him as he lay on the track, in the same stadium where he and his teammates set the world record in this event, 36.84 seconds, at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Kevin Jones, a doctor with the Jamaican team, said his preliminary diagnosis was that Bolt had suffered an acute muscle cramp in his left hamstring, although Jones could not rule out the possibility of a muscle tear. He said that a slight delay in the start of the race — because of the length of two medal ceremonies that preceded it — might have contributed to Bolt’s situation.
“It was cold back there, and the guys were complaining,” Jones said.
Bolt won three gold medals at the London Games, confirming his status as one of the greatest Olympians in history. He added three more golds at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but this season proved to be one too far for Bolt, who will turn 31 this month. At these championships, he had to settle for a bronze medal in the 100-meter race. And then came the relay.
He put on a good show before the race, joking with the mascot in the corridor leading to the track and playing to the crowd once he emerged from the tunnel.
But there would be no grins or laps of honor after this relay was run, and if this was indeed his final official race, it was hardly a reflection of the mood and victories that preceded it.
Bolt looked anything but invulnerable as he grabbed at his left leg, shouting an oath while his rivals continued to accelerate. He looked anything but superhuman as he fell to earth, although he did manage a somersault on the way down.
And though he was eventually able to rise to his feet and hobble across the finish line long after the race ended, with his Jamaican teammates walking slowly beside him, he soon dropped to the track again and grimaced.
He later rose again and limped away. He left with 14 career medals in the world championships, 11 of them gold. But there was no final flourish for a man who has been not only one of global sport’s great athletes but one of its great entertainers as well.
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