When Usain Bolt is on schedule, he not only fills the Olympic stadium, but draws all attention. Yet, there were moments that stood out, apart from Usain Bolt anchoring Jamaica to gold in the 100-metre relay and winning his ninth gold medal in the Olympics on Friday.
But, first things first. Bolt along with Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake and Nickel Ashmeade clocked a season best 37.27 seconds to beat the Japanese who ran an Asian record of 37.60. The Jamaicans hold the World and Olympic record at 36.84 from the London Games. Canada won the bronze with a national record time of 37.64.
The Japanese Ryota Yamagata, Shota Iizuka, Yoshihide Kiryu and Aska Cambridge may not be impressive individually, but as a team they showed months of hard training can bear fruit even against the best in the business on the biggest stage.
There was no real challenge to the Jamaican supremacy. “Our coach said, listen guys. Make sure you get the baton around. As long as I get the baton in my hands, it is going to be gold,” Bolt said after the race.
The US team that had former Olympic champion and 100 metre silver medallist Justin Gatlin in its ranks, was disqualified after it finished third, for violating the rules.
The flag-draped U.S. quartet had already completed their lap of honour and were speaking to the media when news emerged that instead of taking bronze medals behind Japan and winners Jamaica they had been disqualified.
The problem was a minor technical one at the first changeover between Mike Rogers and Justin Gatlin, as Gatlin touched the baton out of his zone but the result was disqualification.
Allyson Felix, who could not defend her 200-metre gold as she did not make the US team, won her fifth gold, the first by a woman in athletics, as she ran the second leg in the team’s victory in the 100-metre relay.
Tianna Bartoletta, English Gardner and Tori Bowie did it with Allyson to clock 41.01 seconds that beat Jamaica’s 41.36. Some of the very best sprinters, Elaine Thompson, Veronica campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce along with Christania Williams were in the Jamaican team, but the American team executed the race better.
Britain took the bronze with a national record 41.77.
Interestingly, the American team had a re-run with only the clock to beat on a set target in the qualification stage, after Allyson was viewed to have been obstructed by a Brazilian runner during the baton exchange in the heats.
“It is very special. I am proud to look back on my career and appreciate what the sport of track and field has given me,” said Allyson.
In the women’s 5000 metres, favourite Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia was outrun by the Kenyans, four-time world champion Vivian Cheruiyot and Hellen Onsando Obiri, with about 700 metres to the finish.
“This was my fourth Olympics. I have been dreaming about a gold medal. It has finally come today,” said Vivian who had won the silver (5,000) and bronze (10,000) in the London Olympics. She had won the silver in the 10,000 metres behind Almaz earlier in Rio.
“Before the last five laps, I saw how Ayana was not running smoothly. I said to Hellen, let’s go. We are going to get something. Today we are going to catch this lady,” recalled Vivian, who won with an Olympic record of 14 minutes 26.17 seconds, ahead of Hellen who clocked a personal best 14:29.77. Almaz, who had set a World record in the 10,000 metres, was a distant third at 14:33.59.
In men’s hammer throw, Dilshod Nazarov of Tajikistan won the gold with his fifth throw of 78.68 metres. He beat Ivan Tsikhan of Belarus (77.79) and Wojciech Nowicki of Poland (77.73).
“It was my childhood dream to win an Olympic gold medal,” said Dilshod.
The women’s pole vault gold went at 4.85 metres to Ekaterini Stefanidi of Greece, while Sandi Morris of the US had to settle for the silver over the same height. Eliza McCartney of New Zealand pipped Alana Boyd of Australia after both cleared 4.80 metres. On the count back, whoever clears a height earlier, wins the tie-break.
London Games silver medallist Jennifer Suhr of the US could clear only 4.60 metres and finished joint seventh.
“It is one of hardest events to compete. I am glad to make my country proud,” said Ekaterini, who had taken to the sport when she was 10. Like everyone, she also missed World and Olympic champion, the iconic Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia.
“It would have been just as successful an event for me if I had come second to Isinbayeva,” said Ekaterini.
She recalled the risk her husband took to congratulate her.
“My husband jumped into the scaffolding, almost killed himself and then said, 'Honey you did it,'” said Ekaterini.