Bolt wins 100m; eyeing 200m record
RIO DE JANEIRO – Usain Bolt believes a new 200m world record is a possibility as he embarks on the next leg of his race for immortality at the Rio Olympics.
The world’s fastest man electrified Rio Sunday night by romping to a third consecutive gold in the 100m, the first leg of his bid for an amazing “triple triple”.
Bolt, who wants to better his 2009 record run of 19.19 seconds, said a new record could be on the cards as he geared up for the opening round of the 200.
“I think if I can get a good night’s rest after the semi-finals, it’s possible,” Bolt said.
“I’m going to leave it all on the track and do the best I possibly can,” he added.
Bolt has repeatedly said he wants to be the first man to dip under 19 seconds for the 200m. That goal will probably remain elusive in Rio – Bolt’s fastest time for the 200m this year is 19.89sec, set in London last month.
Four men have run quicker over the distance this season, with LaShawn Merritt of the United States leading the times with a best of 19.74sec, set at the US Olympic trials in Eugene on July 8.
Justin Gatlin, silver medallist in Sunday’s 100m, is second fastest, clocking 19.75 last month. The closest Bolt has come to his 2009 record is the 19.32 seconds he clocked in winning the gold at the London Olympics in 2012.
Nevertheless, the Jamaican’s knack of achieving the improbable means it would be unwise to definitively bet against him. Bolt says achieving his “triple triple” – three consecutive Olympic golds in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m – will make him immortal. Even with the 100m title in the bag, Bolt insisted he would regard his Olympics as a failure if he does not add to his collection of seven gold medals.
“I came here to win three gold medals, I came here to prove myself as one of the greats,” Bolt said.
“If by any chance it doesn’t happen, I’m going to feel sad because I didn’t do what I wanted to accomplish.
“I wanted to set myself apart from everybody else and this is the Olympics, I have to do it.”
Last night Bolt roared into Olympic history, capturing an unprecedented third consecutive 100 metres crown to confirm his place in the pantheon of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen.
The 29-year-old Jamaican legend, competing in his final Olympics, powered over the line in 9.81 seconds, vanquishing drug-tainted American rival Gatlin who took silver with Andre de Grasse of Canada claiming bronze.
Gatlin, who had been booed by the Rio crowd as he was introduced, crossed in 9.89 with De Grasse just behind in 9.91.
Bolt then delighted the fans with his traditional “lightning bolt” pose as reggae in the form of Bob Marley’s “One Love” blasted out of the stadium sound system.
Bolt said he never doubted that he could achieve three straight gold medals in the event.
“No, I think after the semi-finals I felt extremely good,” he told said.
“I wanted to run a faster time. The turn-around time was so quick. It didn’t give us a chance to relax. I was confident coming out.”
Bolt said his effort to power over the top of Gatlin made it one of his best victories.
The victory left Bolt standing alone in the 120-year history of sprinting in the modern Olympic games.
No other athlete – man or woman – has won three consecutive individual Olympic sprint titles.
It also leaves Bolt on track to complete an incredible “triple-triple” of clinching 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay titles for a third consecutive Olympics.
Bolt, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion, had already earned the right to be regarded as the greatest sprinter in the history of athletics after accumulating more golds on the track than anyone else.
But the Jamaican’s latest triumph erases any last lingering doubts that he deserves to be ranked alongside the likes of Muhammad Ali, Pele and Michael Jordan as the kind of once-in-a-generation athlete who transcend their sports.
Bolt’s win – his 18th gold in Olympic and world championships since 2008 – averted what might have been a public relations disaster for the drug-tarnished world of track and field.
A corruption scandal involving the sport’s former rulers, who were accused of accepting bribes to cover up positive drug tests, and an investigation which alleged an elaborate state-sponsored doping system in Russia have plunged track and field into the worst crisis in its history.
A gold medal for Gatlin would have made uncomfortable viewing for many – world athletics chief Sebastian Coe among them – who have advocated that serial doping offenders should be banned for life.
But those fears were swept away by the smiling, laughing figure of Bolt, for so long the sport’s most charismatic showman.
Gatlin, who has served two drug bans during his long career, made a powerful start to lead over the first 50 metres.
But as soon as Bolt’s head came around the midpoint the American was in trouble and the defending champion surged home around a metre clear of the field.
Bolt accused Gatlin of disrespect in the run-up to the Games after the American questioned his decision to pull out of the Jamaican trials with a hamstring strain.
But Gatlin was full of praise for Bolt last night.
“I have the utmost respect for Usain,” the 34-year-old said. “When he comes away from the track he’s a great guy, a cool guy. There is no rivalry between us, no bad blood.
“He has pushed me to be the athlete I am today. I hope that he can say the same for me. When it comes down to it I’ve given him the closest races in all his career. To be able to say that at the age I’m at right now is a true honour.”