Usain Bolt admitted he was close to tears as he bade one final, emotional goodbye to a sport he has dominated for a decade with a farewell lap of honour at the World Championships.
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 Olympics 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.
He stopped briefly at the 100m and 200m marks and said: “I was saying goodbye to the fans and saying goodbye to my events also.
“These are my two events that I have dominated for years. I was saying goodbye to everything. I almost cried. It was close, but it didn’t come.
“It’s really sad that I have to walk away now.”
There is no room for second thoughts, though.
“I’ve seen too many people retire and come back into the sport just to make it worse or to shame themselves,” he said. “I won’t be one of those people.”
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.
“For me I don’t think one championship is going to change what I’ve done,” said Bolt, who did, though, admit he needed a drink after a “rough” week.
“I remember after losing the 100m someone said to me, ‘Usain, no worries, Muhammad Ali lost his last fight also, so don’t be stressed about that’.
“I’ve proven myself year in, year out, throughout my whole career.”
A giant of the sport thanks to his eye-watering fast times – his world records over 100m and 200m of 9.58 seconds and 19.19secs look set to stand 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.
The fact that his 100m crown went to convicted doper Gatlin only served to emphasise that fact.
“I’ve always been strong on doping,” said Bolt.
“I feel like athletes should get life bans. If you go out of your way to cheat to be a better athlete I feel you should get life bans, that’s a fact.
“We hit rock bottom last year or the year before and now we’re on our way back up. Now we have to be strict on this to help the sport stay in a good place.
“I’ve proven to the world you can do it, you can be great without doping. That’s one of the things I want to preach to the younger kids.”