“Bolt! Bolt! Bolt!” they cried, feverishly and repeatedly, revelling in Usain Bolt’s every pose, wave and smile. And, most of all, in his victory. The 29-year-old Jamaican had promised the world he would create history in Rio and he proved good to his word, brushing past his great American rival Justin Gatlin with 25m to go to coast to become the first man to win three Olympic 100m titles.
The time was nothing special – 9.81 seconds – but at this stage of his career he knows scavenging for titles is more realistic than world record times. This win lifted Bolt above Carl Lewis – who won 100m gold in Los Angeles and Seoul – and he now has seven gold medals to his name. On this evidence only a brave man would back against him making that nine after the 200m and 4x100m relay later this week.
Behind Bolt trailed Gatlin, his great rival, who took silver again in 9.89. The best of the next generation, the Canadian Andre De Grasse, claimed bronze in 9.91.
This was Bolt’s slowest championship winning time, a far cry when he raced away from the field to set an Olympic record of 9.63 sec in London four years ago. It is part of a gradual slowing down and he winds towards retirement next year. At the world championships in Moscow in 2013 he had run 9.77, in Beijing last year 9.79. Simultaneously he appears increasingly mortal yet still far beyond the reach of his contemporaries.
“I’m really happy but I expected to go faster,” Bolt admitted. “With the turnaround time between the semi-final and final we normally have two hours, but we had one hour 20 minutes, it was challenging. But I’m just happy that I won and that’s the key thing.”