Olympics: Bolt still gold as history beckons

Above: Usain Bolt winning the 200m final in 19.78sec, ahead of Andre de Grasse (right) and Christophe Lemaitre (left). LaShawn Merritt came in sixth. Left: Ever the showman, Bolt will run his final Olympic race this morning in the 4x100m relay.
Usain Bolt winning the 200m final in 19.78sec, ahead of Andre de Grasse (right) and Christophe Lemaitre (left). LaShawn Merritt came in sixth.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Above: Usain Bolt winning the 200m final in 19.78sec, ahead of Andre de Grasse (right) and Christophe Lemaitre (left). LaShawn Merritt came in sixth. Left: Ever the showman, Bolt will run his final Olympic race this morning in the 4x100m relay.
Ever the showman, Bolt will run his final Olympic race this morning in the 4x100m relay.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

No world mark but he's still the only one below 20sec and it's just relay left to complete triple treble

Usain Bolt, too fast for any man on Earth to catch, will take his final step towards sporting immortality when he steps onto the Olympic Stadium track today.

Almost all the talk prior to the Rio Games was about his unprecedented bid for a "triple treble", to sweep the 100m, 200m and 4x100m events in three straight Olympics.

He completed the first leg of the Herculean task last Sunday with a victory in the 100m and topped it with a stunning performance in the 200m, his favourite event, on Thursday night in Brazil.

Introductions of the competitors for the men's shot put and women's javelin were accompanied by a band and drums but it was Bolt who provided the rock and roll element.

Uncoiling from Lane 6, the lanky Jamaican stopped the clock in 19.78 seconds to claim the gold medal three days before his 30th birthday, making him the event's oldest winner.

LOSING IS NEVER FATAL

"I don't lose a lot because I always focus and I'm always ready. But if I lose, I always learn from that moment so it doesn't happen again.

USAIN BOLT, Jamaican sprint extraordinaire, on why losing seldom bothers him too much.

This was his third straight victory in the 200m at the Summer Games, dating back to Beijing 2008 (19.30) and London 2012 (19.32). He will not compete in Tokyo 2020 and next year's World Championships in London - where he will compete only in the 100m and 4x100m - will be his last major outing.

He had a 3-4m lead by the bend and never looked in any danger of being caught but there was no showboating near the finish as he dipped his head to shave off whatever micro-seconds he could.

Bolt was the only man under 20sec and finished ahead of Canadian Andre de Grasse (20.02) and Christophe Lemaitre of France (20.12sec) but there was a sense of discontent from the 1.95m Jamaican. He had been aiming to break his own world record of 19.19sec (set at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin) and become the first man to break the 19sec barrier.

The owner of six of the 10 fastest 200m times in history said: "I wanted to run a little bit faster, even if I didn't break the world record. I'm not 21 or 26 any more, my legs don't feel as fresh and it's not as easy as it used to be.

"But the key thing was that I won. You guys know the only thing that matters is the gold medal."

Reggae music blasting from the stadium speakers provided the soundtrack for his latest victory lap though Bolt, the human highlight reel, was uncharacteristically restrained, save for shouting "number one!" at the camera.

He said: "No words to explain to be eight-time Olympic champion. It's wonderful. The 200m means a lot more to me. There's nothing else I can do. I've proven to the world I'm the greatest."

He certainly does not, said decathlon champion Asthon Eaton, who had finished his event and hung back to watch Bolt. The American said: "To be in the same pages of history as Usain, that's pretty special."

Lemaitre added: "Bolt runs fast at the big moments. He's the championship man."

The victory allowed Bolt to tie American long and triple jumper Ray Ewry for third spot on the athletics all-time list, behind sprinter Carl Lewis (nine golds, one silver) and Finnish middle- and long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi (nine golds, three silvers).

All that remains is the men's 4x100m relay (9.35am today, Singapore time) to put the exclamation mark on Bolt's legacy. The Jamaicans own the world record of 36.84 and are the only team in history to record a sub-37sec time. They have dominated this event, winning the past two Olympics and the last four biennial World Championships.

Bolt's 200m record is equally impressive. Three Olympic wins, four world titles and a 48-2 win-loss record since the start of 2008.

Put it simply, he has forgotten what defeat in the 200m tastes like.

"A loss is always just a learning experience," he said. "I don't lose a lot because I always focus and I'm always ready. But if I lose, I always learn from that moment so it doesn't happen again."

Few would bet against him ending what has been a phenomenal Olympic career on a winning note this morning.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2016, with the headline 'Bolt still gold as history beckons'. Print Edition | Subscribe