Usain Bolt bade one final, emotional goodbye to a sport he has dominated for the past decade with a lap of honour at the end of the World Championships in London.
The Jamaican lapped up the acclaim from the packed London Stadium crowd who had stayed on after the final event to honour the greatest athlete in history.
Bolt was presented with a section of the track from London 2012, the Games at which he declared himself a “living legend” by defending his 100 and 200 metres titles, by athletics chief Lord Coe and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
Montages of his most famous moments played on the big screen before the 30-year-old circled the stadium to unrelenting applause, clapping the fans back in return.
“It’s been a rough couple of days for me,” said Bolt to the crowd ahead of his lap.
“To be in the stadium with such wonderful people, it’s going to be emotional.”
Bolt brought the curtain down on his glittering career in the most dramatic circumstances imaginable on Saturday night, collapsing to the track with injury, diagnosed as a hamstring cramp, as he ran the anchor leg for Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team.
He was helped to his feet and limped across the line. It was a sad and undeserving way to go out.
It meant the 19-time global champion’s final championships ended without another gold after he could only manage bronze in the 100m.
But his legacy remains untarnished. This was not a championships on which to judge Bolt the athlete, his hunger for glory apparently already sated, his greatness assured.
This last season, which followed three more Olympic golds in Rio last year, was one long lap of honour. A farewell tour for a “Goliath” as new 100m champion Justin Gatlin called him.
Bolt said that he was told after the 100m not to worry “as Muhammad Ali also lost his last fight, so don’t be stressed”.
“I don’t think this will change what I’ve done in the sport,” he added.
A giant of the sport thanks to his eye-watering fast times – his marks over 100m and 200m of 9.58 seconds and 19.19secs – look set to go unthreatened for many a year – his colourful, larger-than-life character and his ‘saviour’ tag in the face of so many doping scandals, his retirement leaves a huge void.
“I’ve always tried my best. Every time I touch a track I come out and give 100 per cent all the time,” said Bolt.
“I just want to entertain and put on good performances. The support has been immense.
“It’s really sad that I have to walk away.”