Jamaica’s Usain Bolt maintained his perfect record in the Olympic 100m, setting day three of the Rio 2016 track and field competition alight with his third consecutive gold medal in the event and the fifth individual sprint title of his storied Games career.
In stopping the clock in a time of 9.81, the 29-year-old stayed firmly on track in his bid to take his tally of individual Olympic sprint titles to six and earn a unique place in the history of the sport, having won the 100m and 200m relay “sprint double” at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012. The USA’s Justin Gatlin, the fastest man in the world this year, took silver behind him in 9.89, with Canada’s Andre de Grasse third in 9.91.
“I came here to achieve three gold medals,” said the Jamaican after completing a leisurely lap of honour at a packed Olympic Stadium and posing for countless selfies. “I came to prove I’m one of the greats. I wanted to set myself apart from everybody else, and this is the Olympics and this is the place to do it. I feel pretty proud of myself. It was important to get it done. Three times is magnificent.”
After cantering to victory in a season’s best 9.86 in his semi-final, the world record holder produced an even better run with gold at stake. Despite coming out of the blocks behind his 34-year-old American rival, the Jamaican caught the field by the midpoint and surged away to win by a metre.
Giving his view of the race, Bolt said: “The start wasn’t as good as I wanted but after the semis I was a lot more confident. I knew I got a bad start but I told myself, ‘Don’t panic, take your time’. I knew he (Gatlin) was going to have a good start, but I told myself to take my time and chip away the lead. After the semi-finals I was confident I could win this one.”
Summing up his achievement in winning a fifth individual Olympic sprint gold, the insatiable Bolt added: “This is very important. I never knew how nervous I was until I started competing. I could tell that in my mind it was very important so I had to get it done. For me it is big because to do this three times... no one has ever done it before or even attempted (it).”
Next up is the 200m, and the sprint legend will not have too much time to dwell on his latest achievement, with the heats scheduled for the morning of 16 August. Bolt, who will face stiff opposition in the longer event from the new 400m world record holder and Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk, repeated his claim that his own 19.19 seconds world record from 2009 was within range.
“I’m excited about what about to happen for the rest of the Olympics, I really want the 200m world record,” he said. “I am always confident about the 200; the 100m is always the hardest one for me. I think if I can get a good night’s rest after the semi-finals it’s possibly a thing I could do. I’m going to go out there and leave it all on the track.”