'Lightning' Bolt thunders past Gatlin to win third Olympic 100m gold

Jamaican superstar trailed the American until the 70 metre mark

For 9.81 glorious seconds on Sunday, all the ills that have dogged athletics recently were forgotten as Usain Bolt stormed to victory in the 100 meters final to become the first man to win three successive Olympic titles on the track.

The Jamaican superstar trailed arch-rival Justin Gatlin, roundly booed by the Rio crowd for his doping past, until the 70 meter mark but then swept past the American, finding time to pat his chest as he crossed the line a meter clear.

Jamaica's Usain Bolt (left) crosses the finish line of the Men's 100m Final during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 14, 2016. (AFP)

Gatlin, the 2004 champion who came into the race with the season's fastest time of 9.80, took second in 9.89. Canada's Andre de Grasse claimed bronze in 9.91 seconds - the same finishing order as in last year's world championships.

Victory took Bolt a step closer to his goal of winning a historic "triple-triple" combination of gold in the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay in three consecutive Olympics.

Other than the 2011 world championships, when he was disqualified for a false start, Bolt has won every other global championship individual sprint race since 2008.

That equates to five Olympic golds and seven in the world championships. Throw in two more Olympic and four world championship 4x100m relay golds and the world record in all three events and that is total and utter domination

"This is what we train for. I told you guys I was going to do it," Bolt, 29, told reporters. "Stay tuned, two more to go.

"Somebody said I can become immortal. Two more medals to go and I can sign off. Immortal."

Already assured of his legend status, Bolt also added to his reputation as sport's number-one crowd pleaser as he took a leisurely circuit of the stadium, posing for pictures and shaking a thousand hands.

OFFICIAL RELIEF

If the fans were pleased, it is hard to imagine the relief felt by officials of the IAAF and IOC, who must have been dreading a Gatlin victory.

The American has served two drugs bans, though he denies any deliberate wrongdoing for either, and at 34 was bidding to become the oldest 100m champion.

The Rio fans certainly showed what they thought of him as he was loudly booed as he entered the arena, and Gatlin returned the compliment by being the only finalist not to acknowledge the crowd.

Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrates after he won the Men's 100m Final during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 14, 2016. (AFP)

Bolt, in contrast, brought the spectators to a fever pitch of excitement as he strolled in, smiling and waving, to chants of "Bolt, Bolt, Bolt."

"I was surprised," Bolt said. "It is the first time I have come into a stadium and they booed someone. It was shocking."

It was no surprise to see Gatlin, the fastest man in the semi-finals, get his usual explosive start but Bolt, who had looked much smoother out of the blocks in his semi than in Saturday's heats, was where he needed to be.

The race followed the pattern of so many before as he eventually unraveled his long legs to gain maximum pace and though he did not hit the front until later than he might have liked, when he did he shot past Gatlin like a track cyclist coming out of a slipstream in the velodrome.

The time was a long way off his 2009 world record of 9.58 but that was never the issue at stake.

Heats for the 200 start on Tuesday with the final on Thursday.

Semifinals

Double defending champion Usain Bolt looked to be right at the top of his game when he posted a time of 9.86 seconds easing up to reach the Olympic 100 meters final on Sunday.

The Jamaican ran much more smoothly than in Saturday's heats and was in complete control, glancing from side to side with 30 meters to go before easing over the line.

American Gatlin, fastest in the world this year with 9.80 and likely to be Bolt's main threat in the final, also looked strong and controlled his semi-final in clocking 9.94.

The crowd, healthy but far from capacity, showed what they thought of the man who has served two doping bans by roundly booing when his name was announced and Gatlin barely broke stride after crossing the line before disappearing straight down the tunnel.

Canada's Andre de Grasse also looked good, following Bolt home in the second semi by equalling his 9.92 personal best while former world champion Yohan Blake also advanced in 10.01.

Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut, who scraped through the heats as a fastest loser, won the first of the three semis in 9.95 - fourth quickest of the night. Ben Youssef Meite also went through with an Ivory Coast national record time of 9.97.

 

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