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August 21, 2017

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Usain Bolt's legacy not dented by very mortal London cramp

LONDON - Usain Bolt embarked on a final lap of honour Sunday to say goodbye to his adoring fans after his glittering career had not quite ended in the way everyone had envisioned the day before.

But the Jamaican who had redefined the sprint with world records, 11 world and eight Olympic golds was not really fussed as the 2017 season had been only an encore for the fans after he had completed his legend status last year with a final Olympic title treble.

"I don't think one championship will change what I have done. Muhammad Ali lost his last fight as well," Bolt told his final and packed news conference, referring to the American boxing icon who like he transcended his sport.

Bolt's career ended in London with a 100m bronze and he didn't make the finish line of his last race, the 4x100m relay, pulling up and falling to the ground after a few strides with what he Sunday said was a pulled hamstring and not a cramp.

Bolt left on his own feet as he spared himself and the world the sight and embarrassment of heading into retirement in a wheelchair brought onto the track by a volunteer.

But he was back Sunday for his final lap of honour as a tribute to his career, reggae tunes echoing around the stadium, the final 'to the world' gesture at the finish line and a long embrace with his parents.

"For me I was saying goodbye to the fans and my events also which I have dominated for years. I said goodbye to everything," he said of his most emotional lap of honour.

Bolt received a framed part of the London track from London major Sadiq Khan and Sebastian Coe, head of the ruling body IAAF, with whom he is in talks about a future role in the sport.

"I am excited, I love track and field. It gave me everything I had," he said, suggesting that he would like to work with young talent.

But on the track the last memory of him was the relay meltdown.

"The Usain Bolt we carry in our hearts would have ... engraved his legacy with one last thrilling victory. (But) Someone else showed up in his place - this Other Bolt who finished third in the 100 last week, then caught a cramp in the 4x100 and could not finish the race," American broadcasters ESPN said.

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Sunday was among those noting that "Bolt returns to mortal status" and the New York Times said "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."

Some like former 200m and 400m great Michael Johnson suggested that Bolt should have rather quit as originally planned last year after another title treble at the Rio Olympics where Bolt himself said he had now achieved legend status.

After all, Bolt suddenly appeared very human in London as he had to settle for 100m bronze, and a relay win was also unlikely before the cramp as he got the baton in third place behind the British and American team.

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