MOSCOW (Reuters) - Toppling Usain Bolt from his sprint throne could take a while yet with the untouchable Jamaican star of track and field still looking down on those who seek to challenge his reign.
While his jet engine still roars, others toil, with the fastest man on earth heading home from the Moscow world championships with another three golds, despite never needing to be at his peerless best.
Bolt duly completed a 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay treble to match his feats of the last two Olympics, become the most successful athlete in world championship history - and left promising his goal was more Games glory in Rio in 2016.
Jamaican sprinters lauding it over waning powerhouses the United States was evident again in the Luzhniki stadium, the twinkle-toed Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce powering to her own treble.
In truth, it was far from a vintage championships, the buzz of last year’s Olympics long gone, with some notable London champions absent, a doping cloud hanging over the sport and not a world record in sight.
Like Bolt and Fraser-Pryce, an ever-smiling Mo Farah shone bright. The Briton confirmed his place among the long-distance greats by brilliantly repeating his Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 double.
Farah took 10,000 gold on the opening night of the championships and made light of a stitch during the 5,000 final six days later with another supreme final lap.
Russia topped the United States in the medals table, by seven golds to six, helped by strong performances in the field events and walks.
Popular drama queen Yelena Isinbayeva was roared to victory by an ecstatic crowd in the pole vault, taking an emotional third world title after a difficult season then announcing she planned to return to action in the future once she has had a baby.
However, she suffered a backlash for her subsequent anti-gay comments, convincing nobody when she said later she had been misunderstood.
While Isinbayeva and the controversial Russian law divided opinion, the world is united in appreciation of Bolt.
He came to Moscow after a low-key season but, in the absence of injured Yohan Blake and Tyson Gay, banned after failing a drugs test, there was nobody able to pressure him.
He regained his 100 meters title with a workmanlike win over Justin Gatlin, then sauntered to victory over his favorite 200. Anchoring the Jamaican 4-100m relay, he took his tally of world championship golds to eight - level with Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson and Allyson Felix but ahead of the American trio on silver countback.
Apart from his false start and ignominious disqualification from the world 100 final two years ago, the 26-year-old has won every global sprint gold since claiming his first Olympic 100 meters title in Beijing in 2008.
“My goal is to defend (for a second time) my titles at the next Olympics as it hasn’t been done before by anyone. And this world championships is a stepping stone towards that goal,” he said.
The colorful Fraser-Pryce, half her long hair dyed pink, also led her rivals a merry dance,
Her scintillating 100 meters triumph, sealed from the moment she powered out of the blocks, was followed up with another virtuoso display in a 200 final that left three-time champion Felix prone and in tears after the American tore her hamstring in the first 30 meters.
New stars emerged in the hurdles in the shape of American Brianna Rollins and Trinidad and Tobago’s Jehue Gordon.
Rollins, 22 on Sunday, belied her inexperience to dethrone Sally Pearson while in the men’s one-lap event, Gordon, 21, pipped a tiring Michael Tinsley by one hundredth of a second to confirm the promise that made him world junior champion.
Of the Olympic champions to flop in Moscow, Kirani James was the most surprising.
Defending world and Olympic champion James trailed home seventh in a 400 meters final won easily by LaShawn Merritt.
“I was hungry. Probably the hungriest person in the field,” said the American after regaining his 2009 title and making up for last year’s Olympic disappointment when he suffered injury.
Compatriot David Oliver did not even make it to London after a wretched time but the ever-cheerful American took his first global title in the 110m hurdles, with world record holder Merritt sixth after an injury-hit year.
In the closest gold medal finish of all, Briton Christine Ohuruogu brilliantly punished an inexcusable lapse by defending champion Amantle Montsho, who failed to dip at the line as the former champion edged her out by four thousandths of a second.
“I did not see Christine coming,” the Botswanan said with no hint of irony.
While Farah left his African rivals still figuring how to plot his downfall there were no such problems for Ethiopia’s women.
Line up against Tirunesh Dibaba in the 10,000 and you can write off gold. The runner known as the “baby-faced destroyer” powered to her third world crown, extending her winning run in a distance she has never been beaten to 11. Not to be outdone, compatriot Meseret Defar eased home in the 5,000 meters.
Kenya’s dominance of steeplechasing continued through the indomitable Ezekiel Kemboi, showing his younger team mate Conseslus Kipruto a clean pair of heels and equaling the hat-trick feat of his coach Moses Kiptanui.
Milcah Chemos Cheywa also led home a Kenyan one-two in the women’s event.
Decathlon world record holder and London champion Ashton Eaton admitted he had struggled to lift himself in 2013, but that did not stop the American winning a first world title after a first-day roasting from his coach kickstarted him to the fastest-ever decathlon world championship 400metres.
An Eaton family double - he married Brianne Theisen-Eaton last month - was denied when the Canadian was pipped to heptathlon gold by Ganna Melnichenko, much to the delight of the vociferous Ukraine fans who were a constant presence in an all-too empty Luzhniki Stadium.
The Ukrainians also celebrated Bohdan Bondarenko’s impressive high-jump victory, while women’s long jumper American Britney Reese landed a third successive world title, going better than greats Heike Drechsler, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Fiona May who all won two apiece - all after sneaking into the final as the 12th and last qualifier.
Kenyan Edna Kiplagat defied hot and humid conditions to become the first woman to retain the world marathon title and Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich showed his surprise Olympic victory was no fluke by holding a trio of Ethiopians at bay.
Germany took four field event golds, led by Robert Harting who won his third successive world discus crown.
New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams described her feat of four consecutive world titles “as good for women’s sport”, and on the final day, Frenchman Teddy Tamgho unleashed the fourth longest triple jump leap of all time - 18.04 meters.
Editing by Mitch Phillips