Usain Bolt confirmed his status as the greatest sprinter of all time, and arguably the finest track and field athlete, by helping Jamaica win the 4x100m relay last night for his third gold medal of the Rio 2016 Games and his ninth in total.
It means the man who will turn 30 on Sunday has completed an unprecedented ‘triple-triple’ by winning the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay titles at three consecutive Olympic Games.
“There you go, I’m the greatest,” Bolt told reporters afterwards. “I’m going to stay up late and have fun. I never knew this would happen when I started out.”
Bolt becomes the second most successful Olympian of all time, across all sports. Only American swimmer Michael Phelps, who has 23 gold medals, is ahead of him.
Reflecting on the fact that Rio 2016 was his final Olympic Games, Bolt told Brazilian television he had mixed emotions and thanked Brazilians for their support.
“I’m sad but I’m happy too,” he said. “It’s been wonderful and I really appreciate you guys, it’s been nothing but love, it gives me goosebumps. Thanks for all your support.”
Bolt, who also holds the world record in all three events, ran the final leg at the Olympic Stadium on Friday, bringing the Jamaicans home in 37.27 seconds ahead of Japan, who set an Asian record to take the silver in 37.60.
The USA team finished in third but were then disqualified for stepping outside of their lane, so Canada, who recorded a national record of 37.64, were moved up from fourth to the bronze medal position.
“My team came through for me tonight,” Bolt said. “As long as we got the baton around, it was never in doubt.”
The USA team were penalised because lead-off runner Mike Rodgers passed the baton to Justin Gatlin outside the exchange zone. Gatlin, who had been billed as Bolt’s biggest rival before the Games but leaves with just one silver medal (from the 100m), was distraught but defiant. “It was a twilight zone, a nightmare,” he said. “All that hard work just crumbles.
“You guys thought I couldn’t run this fast at 34. At 35 I’m going to be even faster. I never said this was my last Olympics. This has made me hungry for the world championships next year.”
The USA retained the women’s 4x100m relay title and helped Allyson Felix win her record fifth Olympic gold medal.
The Americans won the final in 41.01 seconds ahead of the Jamaican team, which had 100m and 200m champion Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. The Jamaicans finished in 41.36, with Britain taking bronze in a national record 41.77.
The 30-year-old Felix entered the Games as one of six women with four Olympic gold medals in track and field.
Felix ran the second leg for the Americans and passed to English Gardner, who ran a powerful curve to give her team the lead before Tori Bowie ran the anchor leg, holding off Fraser-Pryce as the Americans only narrowly missed the world record.