Jamaica’s Usain Bolt cemented his place among the greats of sport after winning Rio 2016 200m gold to complete his third consecutive Olympic sprint double.
Bolt, who turns 30 on 21 August, the final day of the Rio Games, produced a near-perfect display of sprinting to win in 19.78 from Canada’s Andre de Grasse and France’s Christophe Lemaitre. The Frenchman edged out Adam Gemili of Great Britain in a photo finish after they were both awarded the same time of 20.12.
“I don’t need to prove anything else. What else can I do to prove to the world I am the greatest?” said a jubilant Bolt afterwards. “I am trying to be one of the greatest. Be among (Muhammad) Ali and Pele. I hope to be in that bracket after these Games. That’s why is why I said it’s my last Olympics,” added the Jamaican, who will look to bow out with another gold in the 4x100m relay on 19 August.
It was yet another convincing performance from Bolt in what is his favourite event, one in which he has been beaten only once in nine years. Head down and hands pumping away as he built up speed over the first 30 metres, he rounded the bend with a clear lead and powered home to finish three metres clear of De Grasse. The only disappointment for the victor on another glorious night was that his time was outside his world record of 19.19, set at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin, a mark he had felt was within his reach in Rio.
“I ran hard around the turn,” explained Bolt. “On the straight, my body didn’t respond. I’m getting old. I wanted to run a faster time. I knew it was going to be hard to break the world record because when I came off the corner, my legs decided: ‘Listen, we’re not going to go any faster’.
The first man to win three Olympic men’s 200m titles in a row, just days after completing the same hat-trick in the 100m, Bolt added: “I wasn’t fully happy but the key thing is that I won, and that’s what I came here for. I’m not 21 anymore. This medal means the world. This is my 200m gold medal and so it means a lot more than anything to me.”
Though Bolt’s time was the slowest of his four straight world championship and three Olympic triumphs over the distance, it did not dampen his post-race celebrations. Striking his signature lightning bolt pose to a huge cheer from the crowd, he draped Brazilian and Jamaican flags over his shoulders as he performed his lap of honour to chants of “Usain Bolt! Usain Bolt! Usain Bolt!”.
Giving his reaction to finishing second to the Jamaican great, De Grasse said: “It was a great performance today to come away with the silver medal in my first Olympics. It was tough racing against Usain. It was a learning experience from yesterday (the semi-final). I just didn’t have enough coming home but I’m going to learn from that. I love competing against him. It has been an honour being a part of history with what he’s accomplished.”
Ecstatic at winning his first major international medal, Lemaitre said: “Of course, it was a wonderful moment. I knew I could get a bronze but it was very close race. I was so glad to get the medal for France.” Giving his view on the amazing Bolt, the Frenchman added: “He is a championships man – a really unbelievable guy. He has nothing to prove any more. He is so strong. When you are lining up against him, you have to concentrate on yourself. I just focused on myself and my sprinting. When you are talking about sprinting, you talk about Usain Bolt.”