One gold down, two to go

Usain Bolt celebrating his 100m victory at Rio's Olympic Stadium. The Jamaican ran 9.81sec in his "weakest event" to set his sights on retaining his next, the 200m.
Usain Bolt celebrating his 100m victory at Rio's Olympic Stadium. The Jamaican ran 9.81sec in his "weakest event" to set his sights on retaining his next, the 200m.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Bolt stays on track for triple-triple gold conquest after his 100m triumph

There are few adjectives or accolades left for someone who repeatedly defies our ideas of how fast a man can run.

LeBron James described him on Twitter as a "cheetah", AP McCoy said he was a "racehorse" and Paul Pogba called him "unstoppable".

On Sunday at Rio's Olympic Stadium, watched by more than 50,000, with almost all on their feet for the 100m final, Usain Bolt added the title of history-maker. He is the first sprinter to win the 100m event three times following his victories at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

The Jamaican, in lane 6, lumbered off the starting blocks (his 0.155sec was the second slowest reaction time of the eight finalists) as his American rival Justin Gatlin seized the lead. But Bolt in full stride is almost impossible to beat - he has won 69 of 74 100m races since the 2008 Beijing Games - and showed he was both fast and a fighter as he powered across the line in 9.81sec.

Booed at the start, Gatlin, who served drug bans before and after winning gold at Athens 2004, took silver in 9.89 with Canadian Andre De Grasse third in 9.91.

Bolt, who has been plagued by hamstring injuries this year, said: "I knew it was going to be a tough race. I knew Justin would get his signature start but at 50m, I could tell I was going to catch him as long as I execute right, don't panic and run through the line. This is my weakest event so it's a relief to get it done."

  • USAIN BOLT'S ROAD TO THE TRIPLE-TRIPLE OF SPRINT GOLDS

    9.25AM, SINGAPORE TIME: 100M GOLD

    Monday

    9.30AM: 200M FINAL

    Friday

    9.35AM: 4X100M FINAL

    Saturday

The best always find a way. Bolt, the 100m (9.58) and 200m (19.19) world record holder, had posted only two sub-10 timings this year - 9.98 in May and 9.88 in June - but delivered when it mattered.

He won the semi-finals in 9.86sec and with more rest - there is usually a two-hour gap before the final but organisers had cut it almost by half - stressed he could have gone faster on the blue Mondo track. Gatlin, 34, said: "He rises to the occasion, he's a great runner."

Bolt's 12-minute victory lap included blown kisses, fans rubbing his shaved head, wefies with fans - heptathlon medallists Nafissatou Thiam, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Brianne Theisen-Eaton were waiting for him on the final straight - and his signature pose at the end. He said: "No matter what happens I never doubt myself... Somebody said I can become immortal. Two more medals to go and I can sign off. Immortal."

He turns 30 on Sunday, the day of the closing ceremony, and is the second oldest man after Briton Linford Christie - 32 when he triumphed at Barcelona 1992 - to win the 100m. He has seven Olympic titles and is one step closer to the "triple-triple" bid of sweeping the 100m, 200m and 4x100m for three straight Games.

"I came to prove myself as one of the greats," said Bolt, who starts the 200m heats today. "That's my focus and by any chance I fail and don't win three golds, I'll be sad and won't feel accomplished."

At the start of the press conference, the moderator introduced the medallists. Bolt cheekily put his hand up when his name was called. Journalists chuckled.

We, and the world, know who you are, Usain Bolt.

Simply the greatest of all time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2016, with the headline 'One gold down, two to go'. Print Edition | Subscribe