Five top performers who lit up the world athletics championships in Beijing:
1) USAIN BOLT (Jamaica)
Was it ever in doubt? The “Lightning Bolt” struck once again in Beijing as the king of sprint stormed to yet another golden treble at the Bird’s Nest, where he shot to fame at the 2008 Olympics.
As allegations raged over widespread doping in athletics, Bolt gave the crisis-hit sport a morale boost by crushing two-time doping offender Justin Gatlin in the 100 and 200 metres, before anchoring Jamaica to gold in the 4x100m relay — giving him an astonishing 11th world title.
The biggest scare Bolt suffered was when the six-times Olympic champion was knocked over by a cameraman who lost control of his electric scooter, sending him sprawling. In his press conference, Bolt shot a look at Gatlin beside him and sniffed: “Justin Gatlin talks too much.” Ouch!
2) ASHTON EATON (United States)
Eaton retained his title and set the only world record of the championships with a lung-bursting last lap in the 1,500 metres as a packed crowd in Beijing rose to acclaim the American iron man.
The Olympic champion finished with a total of 9,045 points to eclipse his previous world best by six points, helped in no small part by a decathlon best-ever 45.00 seconds in the 400m and a championship record 10.23 in the 100m.
“I thought the clock was off by a second — they should go back and check it,” said Eaton after the 400m.
3) DAFNE SCHIPPERS (Netherlands)
The Dutchwoman smashed a 36-year-old European record to capture 200 metres gold days after taking silver in the 100m in a breakout championships.
Schippers lunged for the line to beat Jamaican Elaine Thompson to the 200m title in 21.63, breaking the European mark set by Marita Koch in 1979 and matched by fellow East German Heike Drechsler in 1986.
Only Americans Marion Jones and Florence Griffith-Joyner have run the 200m faster but their careers, like those of Koch and Drechsler, were plagued by doping suspicions. Schippers insisted she had nothing to hide, snapping: “I work very hard for it, I know I’m clean.”
4) MO FARAH (Britain)
Farah roared to victory in the 5,000 and 10,000m to become the first man to complete a “triple-double” of distance titles at consecutive world championships and the London Olympics.
The Somali-born Farah, whose Beijing preparations were disrupted by doping allegations made against his coach Alberto Salazar, ran an eye-popping last lap of 52.6 seconds in the 5,000m to pull off the feat after surviving a bruising 10,000m final.
Farah’s goofy post-race comments prompted awkward silence as he talked about playing with drones in his spare time. “People ask me ‘Mo, what you doing?’ and I say ‘I’m just having fun!’ Life’s short,” said Farah, famous for his “Mobot” victory pose.
5) ARIES MERRITT (United States)
Olympic champion Merritt won an emotional bronze medal in the men’s 110 metres hurdles just days before undergoing a kidney transplant.
The American, competing at less than 20 percent kidney function, lost out to Russia’s Sergey Shubenkov in the final but bravely insisted: “This bronze medal means more to me than my Olympic gold. In 2013 when they told me I’d never run again, it pretty much ended my life.”
Merritt’s biggest challenge awaits and he has set himself a goal of next year’s Rio Olympics, although he confessed Saturday’s final could have been his last race.