Usain Bolt, as is now customary in track and field, had the last word Sunday at the world championships.
He had it on the track, where he secured his third gold medal of the meet by running an upbeat anchor leg to secure the men's 4x100-meter relay for Jamaica.
He had it in the interview room, where he was asked to compare these championships with previous ones and to give each a grade on a scale from 1 to 10. For a change and to his credit, he decided to play it straight.
"Uh, I'm going to be truthful here," Bolt said. "It's been a different championships. Not the best. But I think over the days, I think it got better. Over the days they really changed a few things. A lot of people got more relaxed. A lot more people started smiling. There were much more people in the stands, so for me, it really picked up in the end. But at the start it wasn't as good, so I'll have to say 7. I'm just being real."
Just being accurate, too. Though the meet did finish with a flourish and with near-capacity crowds on the weekend, there were a few too many sessions when the sound of a fan shouting could be heard and the sun's reflection off the blocks of empty seats could be admired. (The weather was delightful and nowhere near as brutally hot as past world championships in Seville, Spain; Osaka, Japan; and Daegu, South Korea).
This year's championships were not without subplots. First, a flurry of positive doping tests knocked out stars like Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Veronica Campbell-Brown from the championships in the weeks before they began.
Second, the international backlash to Russia's new legislation banning what it considers gay propaganda sparked, by the end, all manner of debate. The Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro had painted her nails in the colors of the rainbow to support gay pride in the qualifying round, then backed down after consulting with Swedish track officials and opted for red for the final on Saturday.
"I can say it was harder to not paint them in the rainbow than it was to choose to paint them," she said.
The question for Russia is what sort of stormy weather the issue will generate in the much bigger fishbowl of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, which begin in less than six months.
That question was the first one asked of Russia's minister for sport, Vitaly Mutko, at a news conference in Luzhniki Stadium before the final day of competition.
Mutko, a voluble man, spread his arms and launched into a lengthy, impassioned defense.
"I should like to clarify once again that this law does not deprive any citizen of their rights, whether it is an athlete or participant or organizer or the guest who may arrive to Russia," he said, in Russian.
"We are here 10 days together, and if some of you had problems, I should like to hear these problems. I haven't heard anything about these problems so far. I think this is kind of an invented problem. We don't have a law about a ban of such nontraditional sexual relations. We have a different law."
Some of Mutko's summation of that law might not be entirely reassuring to those with concerns about how homosexuality is viewed in modern Russia.
"We want to protect our young generation whose psyches have not been formed," he said. "We want to protect them against drunkenness, drugs and against nontraditional sexual relations. We want them to grow up and when they become adults, then they can decide for themselves." Mutko then added: "I think mass media in the west or outside of Russia, they focus on this law much more than we do in Russia. So I don't want to say anything else, but I can repeat once again that Russian athletes, foreign athletes and guests who will come to Sochi, they will be granted all their rights and freedom."
Back in the mammoth stadium, winter still seemed far away as athletes pushed their limits for one more balmy afternoon. There would still be no world record, making this the first championships since Osaka in 2007 not to produce one.
Four were broken at last year's Olympics, but there was plenty of excellence Sunday, with Teddy Tamgho of France becoming the third man in history to go past 18 meters, or 59 feet, in the triple jump.
Tamgho was already in the lead, but his 18.04-meter effort on his sixth and final attempt was the exclamation point.
Indoor record, but he fractured his right ankle in July of that year in a minor event in the Czech Republic. He missed the world championships in Daegu and was later suspended for six months by the French track federation after an altercation with a coach who was trying to intervene in an argument Tamgho was having with a young woman. He also lost his main sponsorship contract and eventually announced that he would not compete in the London Olympics.
Now joins the world-record holder Jonathan Edwards (18.29 meters) and Kenny Harrison (18.09) as the only men over 18 meters with potentially - at age 24 - more such jumps to come.
Other individual champions Sunday included Christina Obergf~CHECK~ll of Germany in the women's javelin with a throw of 69.05 meters; Eunice Jepkoech Sum of Kenya in the women's 800 in a time of 1 minute, 57.38 seconds; and the reigning world champion, Asbel Kiprop of Kenya, in the men's 1,500 in 3:36.28.
The silver medalist in the 1,500 was Matthew Centrowitz, a 23-year-old American whose father, Matt, was unable to compete in this stadium in the 1,500 in 1980 because of the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics. Matt Centrowitz, who did compete in the Montreal Olympics in 1976, is now the track coach at American University in Washington.
But while Centrowitz and others exulted, there was plenty of heartache Sunday: Alysia Johnson Montano of the United States took command of the women's 800 from the start in a quest for her first medal in a global championships. She pushed the pace and led by nearly 10 meters with 200 to run, only to get passed on the straightaway and finish fourth after falling across the line.
She remained face down on the track, sobbing, as her 19-year-old American teammate, Ajee Wilson, tried to console her. She eventually dragged herself to her feet and walked off the track with her trademark red flower still in her hair but her ambitions, at least for this year, still unrealized.
It was an unusual championships for the United States, the sport's perennial superpower. As usual, it won far more medals than any nation.
Its total, 25, matched its haul in Daegu in 2011.
But 14 of those were silver medals, which meant that the gold-medal count took a serious dip. Russia finished with seven in Moscow, one more than the United States and Jamaica. It was the fewest victories for the Americans in a world championships since they won five in 2001 and the first time they have not led the gold medal count since 1983.
The team also lost its biggest women's star to injury as the three-time 200 world champion Allyson Felix tore a hamstring in the 200 finals.
There would be no relays for her and none for the team's other star sprinter, Carmelita Jeter, the former world 100 champion who sat out Sunday's 4x100 relay with an injury, providing advice to her young teammates on the warm-up track.
All did not go smoothly as a miscommunication on the second exchange meant that English Gardner, who appeared to leave too early, had to slam on her brakes and practically come to a stop before taking the baton from Alexandria Anderson.
The favored Jamaicans then completed the rout with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce running the anchor leg and finishing off the victory in a championship-record 41.29 that gave her a third gold medal here, too.
Remarkably, the United States still finished third and was eventually upgraded to second after the French team, which received its medals on the podium, was disqualified after a British protest for exchanging the baton outside the passing zone.
The British got the bronze instead, just as the Canadian men did when their protest in the 4x100 was successful and the British were disqualified. By then, Bolt and the other Jamaicans - Nesta Carter, Kemar Bailey-Cole and Nickel Ashmeade - had cavorted around the blue track, with Bolt adding a new twist by doing a barefoot version of what appeared to be a Cossack dance: arms folded, long, muscular legs kicking forward from a squat position.
It was hard to imagine past superstars like Michael Johnson or Carl Lewis doing anything similar, and Bolt, who dislikes Lewis, was not interested in comparisons. But Bolt is part of their club now as one of the three men to win eight gold medals in a world championships.
The crowds might have been smaller, his times slower, and the smiles in Moscow harder to spot, but Bolt, track's indispensable athlete, was still the center of attention as the wrap party began. Perhaps he will give Beijing a better grade in 2015.
Â© 2013 New York Times News Service