Usain Bolt considered it his worst race of the season, yet he still won the 100 meters at the Weltklasse Diamond League meeting in 9.90 seconds.
The world and Olympic champion had the slowest reaction out of the starting blocks, and was led deep into the race Thursday by fellow Jamaican Nickel Ashmeade.
Bolt got down to work and muscled through the slight headwind to hit the front at the 85-meter mark. Ashmeade clocked 9.94 for second place, and Justin Gatlin of the United States was third in 9.96
"That was the worst race of the season," said Bolt, who timed 9.95 when losing to Gatlin in Rome in June. "The longer the season goes, the worse my style gets. This race, it was really hard. I was a little sore. It's time to get home now."
With a parade of new world champions in action, the sold-out Zurich stadium fell silent to watch Ukrainian high jumper Bohdan Bondarenko's latest attempt to break the 20-year-old world record of 2.45 meters set by Javier Sotomayor of Cuba.
But Bondarenko crashed through the bar at 2.46. He'd earlier won the event with a clearance at 2.33.
In a stirring women's 5,000 meters duel between Ethiopian greats, Meseret Defar surged past Tirunesh Dibaba in the final straight.
Still, Bolt was the main attraction as usual and put on a typical pre-race act for the crowd, taking center stage seconds after Bondarenko's record attempt.
The sprinting superstar pressed his hands together in a prayer-like pose, head bowed before breaking into karate-style moves. He bowed again as the camera moved along the line.
On a cool evening, Bolt labored at the start and a rare defeat seemed possible at halfway.
"The more I run, the worse my reaction time gets," Bolt acknowledged. "My coach (Glen Mills) knows that when it comes to the end of the season, I am not the perfect athlete."
Yet Bolt allowed himself a smile on crossing the finish, looking across to Ashmeade two lanes on his left and world silver medalist Gatlin two to his right.
Like Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica completed the sprint gold triple of 100, 200 and 4x100 relay this month at the world championships in Moscow. She won a low-key 200 in 22.40 on Thursday.
For once, distance runners took the spotlight with a rare Defar vs. Dibaba clash outside a major championship.
Dibaba, the world and Olympic champion at 10,000, forced a frontrunning pace at the bell, with world and Olympic 5,000 champion Defar poised on her shoulder entering the final straight.
Defar passed her great rival with 70 meters to go and extended her lead all the way to the finish, crossing in 14 minutes 32.83 seconds. Dibaba timed 14:34.82.
"On the last 100 meters, I am going to 100 percent," Defar said.
The stellar lineup helped pull American Jenny Simpson through to a personal best time of 14:56.26 in seventh place.
Americans David Oliver, LaShawn Merritt and Nick Symmonds ran to victories in the 110-meter hurdles, 400 and 800, respectively.
World champion Oliver was a clear winner in 13.12 in the hurdles, and Symmonds clocked 1:43.57 in the 800, just two-hundredths outside his season's best set when taking silver in Moscow.
Merritt timed 44.13 to win after holding off a strong challenge from Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada.
In the 1,500, world champion Asbel Kiprop placed only sixth, with Kenya compatriot Silas Kiplagat winning in 3:30.97.
World champions Eunice Jepkoech Sum of Kenya and Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic sustained their winning form: Jepkoech Sum clocked 1:58.82 in the women's 800 and Hejnova took the 400 hurdles in 53.32 and completed her Diamond League season unbeaten.
Caster Semenya of South Africa, the 2009 world champion, was a distant seventh though ran her season's best time of 2:01.83.
The surprise long jump winner was Zarck Visser of South Africa, only weeks after failing to qualify for the final in Moscow. He won with a personal best leap of 8.32, and world champion Aleksandr Menkov of Russia was sixth, at 7.94.
Dwight Phillips, the 2004 Athens Olympics gold medalist and four-time world champion, leaped 7.53 to place eighth in his final event before retiring.
"Hopefully I left a great legacy like other big long jumpers like Carl Lewis," the 35-year-old Phillips said.
In shot put events staged Wednesday at Zurich's central rail station, world and Olympic champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand set a world-leading mark of 20.98 meters to win the women's event. With a winning mark of 22.03, Ryan Whiting of the U.S. also earned the diamond on offer as season-long champion.