It is a straightforward enough template: Usain Bolt, triple Olympic 100 and 200 metres champion. For the 29-year-old Jamaican inspiration, there was just the small matter of filling in the boxes.
And with the Rio 2016 100m already a job done, he completed the pattern over 200m in inimitable fashion, playing to the crowd at the start, getting serious, getting ahead, staying ahead.
Bolt’s final flourish came at the end of an evening session which had seen one Olympic record beaten – as Ryan Crouser of the United States won the shot put with 22.52 meters, and another equalled, as another American, Ashton Eaton, became the first man to defend an Olympic decathlon title since Daley Thompson at Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984 as he clocked up 8,893 points to equal the Athens 2004 mark set by the Czech Republic’s Roman Sebrle.
But Thursday evening will be remembered most for Bolt’s victory.
Although he had spoken in positive terms about completing his last individual Olympic race, over his favourite distance, in a world record, Bolt’s winning time of 19.78sec was some way short of his 2009 mark of 19.19.
It was not even the fastest time run this year – that, 19.74, belonged to the former world and Olympic 400m champion LaShawn Merritt, who was never in the race at a distance he has raced at only sparingly and ended up sixth in 20.19.
All of this does not matter – although he betrayed some sign of frustration at his failure to deliver everything he spoke of.
What matters is that Bolt has done it – something that may very well never be done again.
“I don’t need to prove anything else,” he said. “What else can I do to prove to the world I am the greatest? I am trying to be one of the greatest, to be among [Muhammad] Ali and Pele. I hope after these Games I will be in that bracket.”
As for the race itself, he acknowledged the effects of age – and successive seasons when injuries, first to his foot, then to his hamstring, have hindered his preparations for the big days: “I ran hard around the turn. On the straight, my body didn’t respond. I’m getting old.”
This was the race that was dearest to him, over the distance where he had made his first international flourish by winning the 2002 world junior title in his native Kingston at the age of just 15 – and at the height of 6ft 5in.
Old or not, no one was going to get past him in that final stretch as he concentrated all his energies on reaching the line – and the expression of joy and relief as he crossed it was more intense than we have ever seen before.
After he had completed his lap of honour, doing the Lightning Bolt, dancing to Bob Marley, Bolt wandered infield again to the spot where lane 6 and the finish line intersected, knelt down on a track glistening with light rain and kissed the spot. He was also kissing farewelll to his individual Olympic career.
Following the great man home was Canada’s 21-year-old young gun Andre de Grasse, bronze medallist in the 100m, who clocked 20.02.
Bronze went, unexpectedly, to France’s 2010 champion Christophe Lemaitre, whose time of 20.12 was the same credited to Britain’s 2014 European champion Adam Gemili.
With 34-year-old Justin Gatlin, Bolt’s perennial rival, failing to reach the final it looked as if his main competition would come from Merritt.
In the end, however, there was no competition.
Eaton had led the decathlon from start to finish in a competition where Kevin Mayer of France made a late charge to silver, beating the defending champion in the discus, pole vault and javelin throw.
For all his efforts, Eaton still had a few seconds over him for the conclusive 1500m, and was the swifter runner.
Mayer took silver in a national record of 8,834 points ahead of Canada’s Damian Warner, who took bronze in 8,666.
“To win two Olympic golds in a row like Daley Thompson is very special,” said Eaton, embraced after his finish by his wife Brianna Theisen-Eaton, who took heptathlon bronze here for Canada. “One day, I’m going to have to meet Daley, shake his hand and thank him for giving me something to chase after. My throwing has been bad In the past, but I really got after the discus and shot here. Can I do three in a row? Maybe you should ask Daley.”
Crouser – 23 and 6ft 7in – had served notice of his intent in the shot put earlier in the day by producing the best distance ever seen in an Olympic qualifier, 21.59m.
He had notlost his touch by the evening, producing a bombardment of big throws that simply obliterated the opposition, including three over 22m, the best of which, in the fifth round, was an Olympic record of 22.52m.
His compatriot Joe Kovacs, the world champion, tried all he knew to get on terms but his body language became increasingly articulate over the fact that it just was not his night, and he eventually took silver with 21.78m ahead of New Zealand’s Tom Walsh, who reached 21.36m.
Two other golds were decided on the night.
In the women’s javelin, the ambitions of the Czech Republic’s Barbora Spotakova to earn three consecutive Olympic golds went west in the same way as they had for Tirunesh Dibaba, who took bronze in the 10,000m, Valerie Adams, silver medallist in the shot, and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who settled for bronze in the 100m.
Spotakova took the bronze medal with a fifth round effort of 64.80m in a competition unexpectedly won by Croatia’s European bronze medallist Sara Kolak, who grabbed hold of a very open competition with a fourth round effort of 66.18m.
Silver went to the early leader, Sunette Viljoen of South Africa, with 64.80m.
The women’s 400m hurdles was won in decisive fashion by Dalilah Muhammad of the US, who finished five metres clear in 53.13 as Sara Slott Petersen took the silver medal in a Danish record of 53.55.
Muhammad’s American colleague Ashley Spencer came through with a late run to take the bronze medal ahead of the Czech Republic’s double world champion Zuzana Hejnova, clocking a personal best of 53.72.
Earlier in the evening Caster Semenya was the fastest qualifier for Saturday’s 800m final in 1min 58.15sec.
Before most of the crowd had arrived, the US women’s 4x100m relay team, disqualified in the morning’s heat but reinstated on appeal, took the opportunity to record a qualifying time for tomorrow’s final in a re-run involving just themselves.
Targeting 42.7, they ran 41.77 – the fastest time of the day.
By Mike Rowbottom
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz