Usain “Lightning” Bolt, running out of his favourite lane six, capped off his illustrious individual Olympic career with a storming run in his pet event – the 200m.
The multiple Olympic champion and record holder in both sprints – 9.58 (100m) and 19.19 (200m) – stopped the Rio stadium clock at 19.78 (-0.5 m/s). The result was never in doubt as long as Bolt remained healthy. He became the first man and only athlete in Olympic Games history to win three straight (100m, 200m) sprint double.
“There are no words to explain. Eight-time Olympic Champion. The 200 means a lot more to me and I have been enjoying it,” Bolt said afterwards.
“There is nothing else I can do. I have proven to the world that I’m the greatest. That’s what I came here for and that’s what I’ve been doing. That is why it’s my last Olympics. I can’t prove anything else.”
As was the case in the 100m final that he won on Sunday night (Aug 14), Bolt’s winning time represented his slowest at an Olympic Games. It was the first time since 2008 that he had not set an Olympic record in any individual sprint event.
“I was not pleased with my time. Even if you run a world record you still want to run faster, but my legs decided they aren’t having it and I was so tired I lost my form on the last part of the race. But the key thing is that you guys know I won and the only thing that matters is the gold medal,” explained the man, who set Olympic Games records – 9.63 (London 2012) and 19.30 (Beijing 2008).
On a night where conditions were not ideal for fast times, Bolt gobbled up Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre and Dutchman Churandy Martina, who were drawn in the outer lanes, with his first few strides. He came off the curve with a five-metre lead which he maintained until the crossing the finish line.
It was a typical Bolt-like performance as he completed his final individual event at an Olympic games on a winning note. His victory was greeted by an ecstatic roar from the enormous crowd that reverberated throughout the entire stadium. Bolt celebrated in samba style covered with the flag of the host nation and that of his country before taking “selfies” with his adoring fans.
In reality the final was like two races in one, as there was plenty traffic some five metres behind Bolt scrambling for the next two medals that were up for grabs.
At the Florida Relays earlier this year Canada’s Andre DeGrasse spoke of his intentions of contesting the sprint double at the Rio Olympics. Five months later that decision earned two Olympic medals.
In Rio he benefitted it seems from competing against Bolt four times during the heats and semi-finals of both sprints. It was evident that he quickly gained a lot of confidence to go along with his tremendous speed especially in the 200m. In the semi-finals he was hauled by Bolt to a personal best of 19.80 seconds. Despite not repeating that feat in the final he was good enough to outrun his rivals to secure the silver medal in a time of 20.02 seconds.
With only the bronze medal now on offer the race got even more exciting. Great Britain’s Adam Gemili, Churandy Martina of the Netherlands, Panama’s Alonso Edward and American LaShawn Merritt all looked like possible candidates.
However, Christophe Lemaitre of France had other ideas. Running like a man with four lungs he rushed by them like an emergency ambulance to win a most deserving bronze medal in 20.12 seconds the same time as fourth place finisher Adam Gemili. Churandy Martina was 0.01 second behind in fifth.
LaShawn Merritt, the bronze medallist in the 400m, was expected to provide the biggest challenge for Usain Bolt. However, once again he found himself in a final up against an athlete blessed with an abundance of speed that he does not possess. He was once again outclassed. It was not his fault. The closest he got to Bolt would have been in the call room and again when they were lined up in the blocks before the start of the race.
Merritt, the 200m world leader, finished a disappointing sixth in 20.19 seconds. Perhaps his body was still feeling the after shock effects from the blistering 400m final and then the follow up 200m rounds. Panamanian Edward like Merritt also hit reverse and faded to seventh in 20.23 seconds. Bolt’s seven competitors can look back with pride knowing that they were a part of an historic occasion.
It was a glorious farewell to Usain Bolt, the biggest superstar the sport of track and field has ever seen. Bolt was in a reflective mood when it was all over. “I was saying goodbye. It’s my last individual event at the Olympics. In the relays you never know what will happen. So I just wanted to say goodbye.”
Usain “Lightning” Bolt is a once in a lifetime athlete and his astounding achievements could last a very long time.