RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, Monday August 15, 2016 – Usain Bolt lived up to his billing as the star man of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by winning the 100m title last night to complete the first part of his bid for an unprecedented ‘triple-triple’.
After his customary slow start, the Jamaican sped past the rest of the field – including arch-rival Justin Gatlin – and finished in 9.81 seconds, successfully defending the title he won at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games. He now becomes the first person to win three consecutive Olympic 100m titles.
The USA’s Gatlin took silver in 9.89, with Canada’s Andre de Grasse claiming bronze in 9.91.
I still can’t get over how fast Usain Bolt is.. pic.twitter.com/212oWrraqn
— #AT (@andytelasai) August 15, 2016
Bolt’s bid for triple glory in Rio also includes defending the 200m and 4x100m he won four and eight years ago. “Somebody said I can become immortal,” he said afterwards. “Two more medals to go and I can sign off. Immortal. It’s a good start. There will always be doubters. But I’m in better shape than last season.”
The 29-year-old praised the crowd in the Olympic Stadium after the race. “It’s unbelievable, the energy they gave me, it’s just great,” he said. “It felt like I was in a football stadium. Thanks for your support, keep on supporting me, I have two more races to go, so watch out!”
Bolt had cruised through the morning heats and then ran the fastest time in the semi-finals (9.86), despite easing off, looking to his side and grinning broadly as he approached the finish line.
It was a night on which everyone wanted to be Jamaican. And luckily for Bolt fans who did not have a ticket for the Olympic Stadium, there was another place where they could come together.
Jamaica House in the Rio Jockey Club, in the upmarket neighbourhood Gávea, rocked to the sound of booming reggae as fans draped in the black, green and gold of the Caribbean nation’s flag gathered to see their favourite son.
— Rio 2016 (@Rio2016_en) August 15, 2016
The party went wild and soon afterwards, one VIP guest arrived and sang Bolt’s praises: Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness.”I’m proud of Usain Bolt, he’s a once in a century kind of athlete, he demonstrates what humankind can do with hard work and commitment,” he said as Bob Marley’s One Love boomed in the background.
“Usain has achieved what I consider to be an almost impossible feat. He is our beloved son, and from what I saw in the stadium, the world is proud of him. The stadium was literally willing him to win. It was an electrifying experience, I’ve never witnessed anything like it before and I don’t think I will again.”
— Usain St. Leo Bolt (@usainbolt) August 15, 2016
Bolt’s triumph was preceded by a spectacular 400m final in which South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk broke the world record with a blistering run of 43.03 seconds. It superseded the 17-year-old mark of 43.18 set by USA sprint legend Michael Johnson.
“I believed I could get the world record. I’ve dreamed of this medal since forever. I am blessed,” Van Niekerk said after the race.
Grenada’s Kirani James, the London 2012 Olympic champion, took silver in 43.76. Pre-race favourite Lashawn Merritt, the American who had run the fastest time of the year up last night, was left trailing in third place on 43.85.