Usain Bolt marked an emotional farewell at a sell-out stadium in Jamaica by winning his final 100m on home soil.
The 30-year-old will bring down the curtain on his illustrious career when he retires in August after the World Championships in London and began his goodbye in front of 30,000 adoring fans in Kingston.
An eight-time Olympic gold medallist, Bolt easily won the ‘Salute a Legend’ race in his first 100m of 2017 but admitted to a rare attack of nerves.
“The run, it was just OK. I must say it was OK. I don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous running a 100m,” he said.
Bolt clocked 10.03 seconds to win before a lap of honour in front of a raucous crowd who danced, waved flags and blew their vuvuzela horns while fireworks lit the sky.
The 100m and 200m world record holder returned to kiss the finishing line before flashing his signature ‘lightning bolt’ pose.
Bolt may not have been too happy with “possibly one of my worst races” but was more concerned with staying injury free and putting “on a show for the crowd” to show them “I’m thankful for the support over the years”.
He added: “Just the atmosphere and the people, the support they came out and gave me, it was really nerve-racking.
“I never expected this, I knew it was going to be big, the stadium was ram-packed so thank you guys for coming out and supporting me.”
He added: “It’s big to see everybody that turned out. It shows that what I’ve done for the sport is a big deal to them and they really appreciate it.
“So thank you and it was my honour to put the sport of track and field at the top and to continue to dominate.
“I’ll try my best even when I’ve hung up my spikes, to really continue to push track and field in any way possible.”
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and International Association of Athletics Federations president Sebastian Coe were also in attendance.
“When you’re sitting in the pub and you’re having the discussion: who is the greatest footballer? Nobody will agree on that,” Coe said.
“If you have the same discussion around golf or tennis, everybody will have different views.
“It’s a slam dunk. [Bolt] is the greatest sprinter the world has ever seen.”
Bolt has won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m gold at past three Olympic Games – Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.
His unprecedented ‘triple triple’ of nine gold medals was downgraded to eight after Jamaican team-mate Nesta Carter, who was part of the quartet that won the 4x100m in Beijing, tested positive for a banned substance. Carter has appealed against the decision.
Nevertheless, Bolt’s exploits remain unprecedented and he also holds the world record in the 100m (9.58) and 200m (19.19).
“I wish Usain Bolt could run for another 40 years. He is going to be missed,” said fruit seller Carlos Morgan, who was at Bolt’s last race in Jamaica and comes from the Trelawny region where Bolt grew up.
“I don’t know what is going to happen to track and field when he retires.
“He is a blessing to not just Jamaica but track and field and the world.”