Usain Bolt sprinted into history, winning his third consecutive 100-metre gold medal in the Olympics and becoming the first athlete to do so. He celebrated long, acknowledging everyone, much to the joy of the capacity crowd at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday.
The 100 metres, in which Bolt has a world record of 9.58, was not a fast race; the Jamaican criticised the schedule of the semifinal being so close to the final. He ran hard to beat the 2004 Athens Olympics champion Justin Gatlin, clocking 9.81 seconds.
The American was second at 9.89, as Bolt got ahead at the halfway stage and kept going, signalling victory at the finish in his own inimitable style.
This was the seventh Olympic gold for Bolt, who will be gunning for the 200 metres and the 4x100 metres relay for a possible unprecedented triple-triple.
For all the doubts expressed owing to the hamstring injury he suffered during the season, Bolt declared that he was good and looking for more. He had paced himself nicely, running 10.07 in qualification and 9.86 in the semifinals.
“My legs felt dead at the start. But, I knew when I got running I would be fine,” said Bolt.
“I never doubt myself. Last season, I was struggling. I am better this season,” he said.
Looking back at the race, Bolt remarked, “The semifinal really got me confident.
“When I got to 50 metres, I felt great and I could tell that I was going to catch him,” said Bolt, about overtaking Gatlin to the gold.
On an inspirational note, Bolt said, “If you work towards your goal, you will always accomplish what you dream.
“I really want the 200 metres world record. I will go out there and leave it all on the track.
“I will run as hard as I possibly can,” Bolt signed off.
“I had tunnel vision. When I crossed the race, I didn’t even know if I was going to be on the podium.
“I was tired going into the final. I am the oldest guy in the field. To me, to run the race and get on the podium is an honour,” Gatlin said.
Canadian Andre de Grasse won the bronze in 9.91 seconds, pushing Yohan Blake (9.93) to fourth. Akani Simbine of South Africa (9.94) and Ben Yousef Meite of Ivory Coast, who ran a national record 9.96, followed.
“It is special. When I was 13, I remember I first watched the Olympics, and seeing Usain [Bolt] win gold back-to-back, before I even started track.
“ I was just so amazed. Now, I am in the same race as him. It is an incredible feeling,” said de Grasse.