Bracket me with Ali and Pele: Usain Bolt on brink of ‘triple-triple’ after superb 200m win
The Jamaican marvel is now just a 4x100m relay win short of a hat-trick of hat-tricks cast in Olympic gold
Two down, one to go. But Usain Bolt has nothing left to prove in his quest for “immortality”.
“What else can I do to the world to prove I am the greatest?” the Jamaican said after another sensational victory, in the 200 metres final on Thursday night at the Olympic Stadium.
“I’m trying to be one of the greatest, be among Ali and Pele. I hope after these Games, I will be in that bracket.”
Bolt will anchor Jamaica’s 4x100m relay on Friday night in search of the third leg of the ‘triple-triple’ after he added his third consecutive Olympic win in the 200m, in 19.78 seconds, on top of the 100m.
WATCH: golden moments on Day 13 at the Rio Olympics
He led from the gun and perhaps 50m in there was already no doubt that Olympic gold medal No 8 would be heading to the Bolt household.
Young upstart Andre De Grasse of Canada had drawn a mid-race smile and an admonishing finger wave from Bolt after daring to attempt to beat the great Jamaican in the semi-final on Wednesday even though the pair were cruising into the final.
“I don’t know what he was trying to do,” joked Bolt.
De Grasse said he was trying to force the older man – although at 29 he’s hardly ready for the retirement home even if this is his last Olympics – to expend some extra energy.
Perhaps he even did. It made no difference. De Grasse was a distant second in 20.02. Christophe Lemaitre of France and Britain’s Adam Gemili were 20.12, with the Frenchman taking bronze in a photo finish.
“All of them are special,” said Bolt of his amazing haul. “The 200m is my favourite event. There is a lot of focus. I am relieved.”
He said Rio was almost certainly his last Olympics. “I want to say so. I think this is the last one.
“I’m getting older and my body is ageing. Personally I think this is my last 200 but my coach may beg to differ.”
Bolt threw a wristband or similar to the ground at the finish, perhaps in frustration that he had failed to break his own world record of 19.19, his stated goal.
“I’m always happy for the win,” said Bolt, who turns 30 on Sunday. “But I wanted a faster time.
“I knew it was going to be hard to break the world record because I could tell by my legs.
“When I came off the corner my legs decided, ‘Listen, we’re not going to go any faster.’”
A damp track – 15 minutes before the Jamaican was scheduled to take the stage the winds blew, the temperature dropped and a cold rain briefly fell – probably mitigated against that, and Bolt was easing up at the end as the finish line clock came into view.
Many of the crowd were already standing out of respect for the United States anthem after the medal ceremony for shot put winner Ryan Crouser just before the 200m final. Those who weren’t rose to their feet as the riff from Welcome to the Jungle signalled that the main man was entering for the main event.
This night’s start line routine was a little dance and wriggle as his name was announced to the customary massive ovation.
He stretched his unfeasibly long legs on the blocks, and less than 20 seconds later part two of the third golden trilogy was over.
Gemili, De Grasse, LeShawn Merritt – the fastest man in the world at 200m this year, and others collapsed to track, shaking their heads as if to say ‘What are we supposed to do about him?’ Meanwhile, ‘he’ was cavorting and frolicking, on his way for another lengthy and well-deserved lap of honour as the crowd screamed “USAIN BOLT, USAIN BOLT” and he finally delivered his iconic pose for the thousands patiently waiting with their smartphone cameras.
“I’m really happy with two medals, but my race today could have been better,” said De Grasse. “I couldn’t really tell what happened. I came off the bend and tried to do something, tried to go, but maybe I used up too much energy in the semi-final yesterday.
“I didn’t think I had, but maybe I did. There was nothing there. I’m really happy with two medals under my belt. But yesterday I ran relaxed. My race today could have been better.”
Gemili watched the stadium big screen, hands clasped in prayer to see who would get the bronze. The higher powers weren’t listening.
“So close, but yet so far. I’m gutted. That’s probably the worst way to lose a medal. To finish fourth and it went down to thousandths of a second,” he said.
“I gave it my all, literally gave everything I could. I wanted to get that medal, not just for myself, but for everyone and I couldn’t quite do it. It’s going to take me a little time to get over that.”
Victory on Friday will put Bolt level with the great Finn Paavo Nurmi who won nine distance events between 1920 and 1928, and sprinter Carl Lewis, four of whose nine golds between 1984 and 1996 were in the long jump.
Elsewhere at the stadium on Thursday another bit of Olympic history was made, though naturally overshadowed, as is everything when Bolt is around.
Ashton Eaton of the US became the first man to win back-to-back decathlon titles since Daley Thompson in 1980 and ’84.
“To win two Olympic golds in a row like Daley Thompson is very special,” Eaton said.
“One day, I’m going to have to meet Daley, shake his hand and thank him for giving me something to chase after.”
Most of the other golds on offer in the evening session also went to the States. Crouser won the shot with an effort of 22.52m, breaking the Olympic record. Delilah Muhammad the women’s 400m hurdles, the first American to win the event since it was introduced in 1984. And Sara Kolac of Croatia won the women’s javelin.