Athletics chief Sebastian Coe described the sight of Usain Bolt pulling up injured in the final race of his glittering career as "horrible".
The Jamaican collapsed to the track on the final leg of the 4x100 metres relay at the World Championships in London on Saturday.
It was a sad way for the 19-time global champion to bow out.
Coe, president of world athletics governing body the IAAF, said: "The athlete in me tells me it's a devastating moment if you're in mid-race and something starts not to work, it's horrible.
"Whether the Jamaican team were in a medal position or not, the reality of it is you don't want to see anybody not being to be able to fulfil what they warmed up to do and what they prepared to do."
But Coe knows it is off the track as much as on it that athletics will miss the larger-than-life Bolt.
"What we are going to miss about Usain Bolt is not the three back-to-back Olympic Games or the clutch of world records or the medals, it's going to be because he has an opinion, he has a view, he fills a room," he said.
"We have some really terrific talent that's identified themselves at these championships, but that's not the same as filling that void."
Bolt's team-mate Yohan Blake blamed the 30-year-old's injury on the delay to the race, which started 10 minutes later than scheduled.
"I think they were holding us too long in the call room. The walk was too long," the former world 100m champion said as he hit out at the organisers. "Usain was really cold. In fact Usain said to me, 'Yohan, I think this is crazy'.
But Niels de Vos, the chief executive of UK Athletics and London 2017, said Bolt would understand.
He said: "It's an unfortunate inevitability that the final event of any World Championship is often slightly later than timetabled.
"I expect Usain himself would be the very last person to complain, not least because often he's been the cause of events being delayed because of the mass celebration that happens around him.
"I guess what happened last night was the events at the end of the 5,000m (in which Mo Farah won silver). It's part of sport and I think most athletes are ready to accept it."
The reception afforded to Bolt, even as he limped across the line, was in stark contrast to the boos which greeted drug cheat Justin Gatlin on the American's way to 100m gold.
Coe has previously described the 35-year-old's win as "not the perfect script" and said fans were well within their rights to make their views known.
"I don't like to see athletes being booed, but the public do feel strongly about that," he said.
"I don't think the IAAF or any organisation has singled Justin Gatlin out, but public opinion is public opinion, and we're not here to choreograph that."
De Vos also sounded an upbeat note about the performance of the Great Britain team, who have come in for criticism for their lack of medals in individual events.
"We are extraordinarily happy," he said. "We will have more finalists than we have ever had before, that's a fantastic result.
"We had four fourths on the track that collectively were less than two tenths of a second away from being four medals. They weren't medals, but this is a team in transition and coming out having our most finalists ever as we push towards the next Olympiad is a great place for British athletics to be in."