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Slow start cannot stop Usain Bolt

PUSH AHEAD:Bolt’s classic performance paled next to Farah’s dramatic 10,000m in which he was tripped and pushed to the track’s edge only to pull ahead victorious

AP, LONDON

Usain Bolt pulls ahead of the pack to win his 100m heat on Friday at the World Athletics Championships in London.

Photo: Reuters

It was classic Bolt. The world’s fastest man saved his best for last.

Lumbering out of the starting blocks and closer to last than first for half the race, Usain Bolt nonetheless sped away to an easy victory in his opening 100m heat on Friday at his final world championships.

His time — 10.07 seconds — did not matter.

Neither did the fact that the evening’s best drama — and biggest cheers — belonged not to him, but to British distance runner Mo Farah, who got tripped and nearly jostled off the track twice on the last lap, but still came away with his third straight world title at the 10,000m.

What does matter is that Bolt, as expected, made it through safely to last night, where he was to run the semifinals and, if nothing crazy happens there, will be favored to win his fourth world title at the 100m.

“The race overall was a poor start,” Bolt said. “I had to push myself a little to get back in the race, but overall, I’m glad I got to push myself, blow the cobwebs out. I’m feeling OK, but it wasn’t a great race.”

In truth, it looked like nearly all of his 100m runs have over the years. He is 196cm, more than a head taller than anyone else on the track and, as usual, he looked like a baby giraffe trying to gain his footing as he clambered out of the start.

“I just sat there small and tried to beat him at whatever point in the race I could beat him,” said Warren Fraser, the veteran from the Bahamas, who lined up to Bolt’s right and kept things even for the first 12 strides.

At 50m, Bolt started pulling ahead. At 75m, he was looking to his left, where he saw nobody. At 90m, he was shutting things down to coast to the finish line.

Bolt had some fun afterward, flashing a thumbs-up to the crowd and toying with the hedgehog mascot, who played with the Jamaican’s shoes — one gold, one purple — before the champion headed off for his lengthy round of interviews.

Earlier in the week, he essentially guaranteed a win. Few could disagree and when the man thought to be his best competition, Andre De Grasse of Canada, dropped out with an injury, the sentiment only grew.

Among those who might challenge him include Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake, American Christian Coleman — he of the much-discussed 4.12 second 40-yard dash that he posted to social media — and Bolt’s longtime challenger, Justin Gatlin.

“Everybody wants to make that moment happen,” said Gatlin, who lost to Bolt by .01 seconds at the worlds two years ago.

The first medals awarded on Friday were actually for races run years ago.

Before the meet began, the International Association of Athletics Federations held ceremonies for the 2013 US women’s 4x400m relay team and others who lost to runners — mostly from Russia — who were later found to have doped.

“Awkward and bittersweet were definitely the way to describe it,” Natasha Hastings said while holding her new gold medal.

However, it was better than nothing, which is what Jenn Suhr will get.

The US’ top pole vaulter won the Olympic gold medal in the same stadium five years ago and was looking for an encore.

She did not clear the bar in three attempts at 4.55m and was gone before the medals round.

“I don’t want to think about this,” she said. “I walked into the stadium and had tears in my eyes for good memories. I don’t want to leave disappointed.”

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