The sprint great anchors Jamaica to 4x100m victory to complete the ‘triple triple’ on likely his last Olympic outing
It was a moment to savour. Usain Bolt’s final race at the Olympic Games saw him run the anchor leg for Jamaica in the 4x100m and as usual he did not disappoint as he led his team to gold in 37.27 on Friday night.
It was title No.3 of the Games after 100m and 200m wins for the 29-year-old, who says he won’t be carrying on to Tokyo 2020, and the third time he has completed this remarkable sprints hat-trick after a similar feat in Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
Comparisons with Muhammad Ali and Pele have already started. Bolt says he’s happy to leave the media and public to decide his place in the hierarchy of sporting legends, but in the world of athletics there is no disputing his status as a living legend.
“There you go, I am the greatest,” Bolt said.
“I am just relieved. It’s happened,” he added. “I am just happy, proud of myself. It’s come true.
“The pressure is real. I look at it as an accomplishment.”
Reflecting on the ‘triple triple’, he added: “That first one (Beijing 2008), I was just happy. That second one (London 2012) was a challenge. And then to come here (Rio 2016) and do the third one is just unbelievable.
“For me, it’s something that I hope I set the bar high enough, so that no one can do it again. I’m just proud of myself.”
The Jamaicans claim they barely practise their sprint relay changeovers, but Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake and Nickel Ashmeade looked slick as they handed the baton to Bolt in the lead and the rest was a formality as he stretched out amid a huge roar in the Estadio Olimpico.
In second, Japan ran an Asian record of 37.60 for a surprise silver. United States was originally third but later disqualified, along with Trinidad & Tobago, which meant fourth-placed Canada moved up into the bronze medal position after Andre De Grasse anchored them to a national record of 37.64.
China was fifth while Great Britain clocked 37.98 for fifth place from lane one.
“We are disappointed, we gave it our all out there and we got beaten by teams that were better than us on the day,” said Adam Gemili, who anchored the team featuring Richard Kilty, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and James Ellington. “We believe on our day we can be challenging for those medals. Today it just wasn’t to be.”
There was a big surprise in the women’s 5000m when Kenyan duo Vivian Cheruiyot and Hellen Obiri beat Ethiopian Almaz Ayana into third.
Ayana had broken the world 10,000m record earlier in the Games and in the 5000m she held a commanding lead after breaking the field up with a 65-second mid-race lap, but she wilted in the latter stages as Cheruiyot stormed through to gold in an Olympic record of 14:26.17 with Obiri two seconds behind.
In 13th, Britain’s Eilish McColgan clocked 15:12.09.
In the pole vault, Ekaterini Stefanidi of Greece pipped USA’s Sandi Morris to gold after a tense contest. Both athletes vaulted 4.85m but victory went to Stefanidi on countback as Eliza McCartney jumped a New Zealand record 4.80m in third and Britain’s Holly Bradshaw finished a fine fifth with a season’s best 4.70m.
Martyn Rooney anchored Great Britain to an impressive 4x400m heat win in 2:58.88 but their joy turned to dismay a few minutes later when they were disqualified.
The controversial decision meant Brazil gravitated to a place in the final and as the evening session ended in Rio there was still confusion over the precise reason for the DQ, with GB penalised for Matthew Hudson-Smith being marginally outside the exchange zone as he was about to begin his leg.
Nigel Levine, Delano Williams, Hudson-Smith and Martyn Rooney had run superbly to qualify with unofficial splits of, respectively, 45.7. 44.0, 45.3 and 43.8 and an appeal was lodged by Great Britain to reverse the decision, while in the other heat Jamaica beat United States to qualify for Saturday’s final.
» Further coverage of Friday night’s action, including a sprint relay win by USA’s women and a national record for bronze by the British quartet, can be found here