Immortal Usain Bolt completes his historic ‘triple-triple’ as Jamaica power to 4x100m relay win
Bolt confirms his name in the history books as he bows out of Olympic competition with a ninth sprint gold for Jamaica
It’s highly doubtful anyone would have forgotten the name of Usain Bolt had he ended his career on ‘only’ eight sprint golds. Just in case, he ensured the “immortality” he was chasing with No 9 after a final sprint to seal the 4x100m relay gold at the Olympic Stadium in Rio that was no less stunning for all that we have become used to his feats of greatness.
Bolt, for whom this might be a final Olympics, has been saying all week in Brazil that he needed the “triple-triple” – consecutive golds in the 100, 200 and 4x100 metres at three Games – to achieve legendary status alongside icons that transcend sport such as Muhammad Ali and Pele. Job done.
WATCH: golden moments on Day 14 at the Rio Olympics
Jamaica won in 37.27 seconds, the fourth fastest time in history. Their London 2012 world record (36.84) and the 37.10 they ran in Beijing are first and third, with their 37.04 at the 2011 World Championships second.
It briefly looked in doubt as Nickel Ashmeade came round the bend on the third leg, pushed hard by Japan’s Yoshihide Kiryu. Then the baton was handed over securely and the greatest sprinter of all-time did what he always does – destroyed the competition.
At the end he was three or four metres ahead of Aska Cambridge, the Jamaican-born anchor for Japan’s impressive silver (37.60). Canada, who had Andre de Grasse in the last leg, took bronze four-hundredths of a second later – but only after the US team were disqualified.
The 21-year-old De Grasse, third behind Bolt in the 100m and second to him in the 200m, is just the latest sprinter to become sick of the sight of Bolt’s back receding into the distance.
“I’ll have to make a new bucket list now,” said Bolt afterwards.
“I’ll definitely miss the sport and the Olympics, it’s the biggest stage for athletes, but I’ve done all I can do, I’ve proven to the world that I’m the best in the world and it’s mission accomplished.”
For perhaps the first time since his stunning wins in Beijing eight years ago, Bolt was briefly overshadowed – Brazil had a team in the final and though the ovation for Jamaica was huge, the cheers for the home side drowned out even his customary welcome.
“BRASIL, BRASIL” went the chant. The natural order of things was restored some 10 or 15 minutes later as Bolt, 30 on Sunday, responded to the cries of “USAIN BOLT, USAIN BOLT” by delivering his ‘To the World’ pose as his teammates and the Japan runners smiled behind him.
Bolt had already been out in the stadium about two hours earlier to receive medal No 8, for the 200m he won in nonchalantly sensational fashion the night before. The stadium was barely a third-full at that time but its occupants still acclaimed him to the full moon above.
There has been criticism of the home fans for not appreciating or understanding track and field, which doesn’t have a strong tradition in the football-mad country, but they recognise greatness.
Bolt joins the great Finnish distance runner of the ’20s and ’30s, Paavo Nurmi, and the sprinter and the ’80s star long jumper Carl Lewis on nine golds. He and his teammates – lead-off man Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake and Ashmead – savoured the adulation for half an hour or more afterwards, the superstar reluctant to leave the stage.
China were elevated to fourth after Trinidad and Tobago were also disqualified.
Embarrassingly for the US, they had completed a lap of honour before finding out they wouldn’t be getting a medal.
“They said Justin [Gatlin] got the stick before the exchange zone,” said Tyson Gay. “I don’t really know the rules but I know if you get it before, you’re DQ’d. That happened to us in 2009 if I’m not mistaken.
“Hell, we already did the victory lap and then when we talked to TV, they told us.”
“It has to be the worst luck for this country ever. It’s always something weird, stupid. Simple mistakes always cost us.”
It was the ninth relay foul-up since 1995 from the US men.
Gatlin added: “It was the twilight zone. It was a nightmare. You work so hard with your teammates, guys you compete against almost all year long. All that hard work just crumbles.”
Earlier, the US women’s 4x100m relay team that enraged China by qualifying at their expense after a rerun won the final in 41.01, the second fastest time ever.
Allyson Felix became the first woman to win five golds in athletics after adding the Rio title to her wins in the 4x400m in Beijing and the 200m, 4x100m and 4x400m in London.
“Our hearts broke for China,” said Felix.
Jamaica were second and Great Britain third.
Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot of Kenya won the country’s first gold medal in the women’s 5,000m, in a one-two with compatriot Hellen Onsando Obiri. Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana, who won the 10,000m earlier in the week, took bronze.
“I’m so happy for me, my husband, my son, my parents. This might be the last Olympics for me so I thought maybe God might give me gold,” said 32-year-old Cheruiyot.
Dilshod Nazarov of Tajikistan won the men’s hammer, and Greece’s Ekaterini Stefanidi the women’s pole vault.