DAEGU, South Korea (AP) — Usain Bolt clutched the purple baton in his right hand and tore off down the track in the final leg of the 400 relay.
There was no one to push the Jamaican star, because the Americans were already out after another botched exchange. This was simply Bolt vs. the clock at the world championships.
The clock didn't stand a chance.
Bolt ran with an all-out fury Sunday as he helped the team finish in a world-record time of 37.04 seconds. His eyes grew big in amazement after glancing at the clock, he screamed and then tossed the baton up into the air.
This from a man who claimed he wasn't in record-breaking shape. But anything's possible when Bolt takes the track.
While his teammates played a big role, Bolt, even with a bothersome Achilles tendon that prevented him from running the curve, brought it on home.
"For me," Bolt said, "it was just to go out there fast."
What started out as a disastrous championships for Bolt ended on a high note. Sure, this doesn't make up for his false start that led to his disqualification in the 100 last weekend, but it does ease the sting a tiny bit.
"I'm very happy with myself," Bolt said. "We ran very hard for that record."
Plagued by relay problems in the past, the Americans thought they had those woes figured out. They organized training camps and participated in competitions to get their timing down.
It worked out well for the women as Carmelita Jeter held off Veronica Campbell-Brown down the stretch to win the 400 relay.
Then came the men's debacle in the final event of the championships, putting a damper on what was otherwise a fine day on the track — a fine competition, for that matter.
The U.S. had a sensational showing in the triple jump with 21-year-old Christian Taylor taking gold and Will Claye, who's a year younger, winning bronze.
Bernard Lagat also captured silver in the 5,000 as the Americans finished with 25 medals, edging Russia by six. It tied for the team's second-best showing ever, one away from the top mark.
A medal the U.S. could've easily picked up had the team been able to get the baton around the track. Maybe not gold with Bolt focused and motivated, but at least silver.
Those thoughts unraveled around the final bend. Darvis Patton was about to hand off to Walter Dix when he suddenly went tumbling head-over-spikes to the track.
Like that, the race was lost. Like that, the men's relay came under scrutiny again after not finishing.
Replays showed that Patton bumped his knee against the arm of British anchor Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, something the Englishman later acknowledged.
Just an unfortunate break.
Patton didn't talk about the incident, leaving in a hurry with his shoulder hurting him from the tumble.
The 33-year-old Patton was involved in the team's disqualification at the 2009 worlds in Berlin, when the exchange was deemed outside the designated zone.
"All this stuff weighs heavily on him," said Justin Gatlin, who ran the second leg of the relay. "It's not his fault."
The U.S. had the top time in the opening round, too. Then again, Bolt didn't participate in that race, preferring to rest up.
"We really were ready for an American record," Gatlin said of the mark of 37.40 seconds set in 1992 and matched in '93.
It would've taken more than that to beat Bolt and his brigade.
A lot more.
Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Yohan Blake, the 100 winner, got the baton to Bolt with a lead and he simply took it from there, treating the fans to a final show as the curtains closed on the championships.
"We were talking about (the record) earlier in the week," said Bolt, who won the 200 meters Saturday with the fourth-fastest time ever. "After the first three legs, I said, 'Why not give my all?' I kept saying, 'I can do this. I can do this.' I was happy to see the world record."
In other finals Sunday:
—Kenya's Abel Kirui successfully defended his marathon title, with teammate Vincent Kipruto taking second.
—Tatyana Lysenko of Russia captured the hammer throw.
—Mo Farah of Britain held off a fast-charging Lagat to take the title in the 5,000.
—Caster Semenya faltered down the stretch to allow Mariya Savinova of Russia claim the gold in the 800.
"I achieved what I wanted, which was to get back to the podium," said the 20-year-old Semenya, who was sidelined for a year by a gender controversy. "I don't talk about the past. I'm still young and I have to focus on the future."
With their win in the women's 400 relay, the Americans planted a seed of doubt into the powerful Jamaicans.
The sprints have recently been a one-sided rivalry, with the Caribbean island cleaning up. But Jeter won the 100 and then edged Campbell-Brown for gold in the relay, giving the U.S. restored confidence.
"This was a lot of fun," said Felix, who captured her record eighth gold medal over four championships.
Taylor was yet another surprise gold medalist for the Americans in a week full of them. His jump of 58 feet, 11 1-4 inches was by far a personal best.
"Today was my day, but I will stay calm and keep working hard," Taylor said. "I do this event because it is the closest experience to flying and I felt that on the last jump."
Bolt was certainly flying as he made his way toward the finish.
And once he was there, he pretended to keep on flying as he spread out his arms as if he were a bird soaring along.
"I ran my ultimate best," Bolt said.
For now at least. The Olympics are just around the corner and he's saving his best for then — the ultimate stage for the consummate showman.
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham can be reached at http://twitter.com/pgraham34
- Usain Bolt