Usain Bolt blitzes the field with season’s best to take 200m gold

Third consecutive Olympic gold in this race for Jamaican - Andre de Grasse takes silver

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt wins the men’s 200m final at the Olympic Stadium on the Thursday night. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

So the Bolt supremacy is now almost complete, even if it’s not quite as supreme as it used to be.

Because in winning his eighth successive sprint gold medal in Rio on Thursday night, Usain Bolt is now only one short of the complete hat-trick - an unprecedented treble-treble, unlikely to ever be rivalled in Olympic history.

Although this latest victory over 200 metres - just like his 100m win last Sunday - was the slowest of his three titles in the event, Bolt himself appearing decidedly unimpressed by his winning time of 19.78 seconds.

Not that Bolt was tested in any way, racing the clock more than anyone else, as he clearly went after his Olympic record of 19.30, set in 2008, and possibly even his world record of 19.19, set the following year in Berlin. Yet they weren’t even challenged, and now a few days shy of 30, perhaps Bolt may never come close again.


Still, it was his last individual race of his Olympic career, and even if he didn’t quite go out in the style he wanted, the crowd inside the Olympic Stadium certainly approved of it all.

The track, slightly dampened with some drizzling rain earlier in the night, may not have helped, and although Bolt held a clear lead on the rest coming into the homestretch, he wasn’t quite able to stretch further away. The 19.32 he ran in London four years ago was similarly unchallenged, his 19.78 here actually the exact same time he’d run in the semi-final the previous day, when easing up.

Still the look of disappointment was temporary, as Bolt promptly began a celebratory lap likely to be repeated once more, on Saturday, when he anchors the Jamaican team in the 4x100m relay - surely completing the hat-trick of Olympic sprint trebles he’d so boldly set out to do.

That would complete his quest to win the double sprint triple (after Beijing in 2008, then London 2012): He has now won 41 of his 45 major 100m races since the start of 2008, and his 200m record in major finals now stands at 28-1.

“I don’t need to prove anything else,” he said, the result is ultimately more important than the time.

“All of these medals are special. The 200m is my favourite event, there is a lot more focus on that, so I am relieved as well.”

Asked were these definitely his last Olympics, he hesitated.

“I want to say so. I think this is the last one. What else can I do to prove to the world I am the greatest?”

The race for silver and bronze was far more exciting, with the silver medal going to Andre de Grasse in 20.20 (having trimmed 0.08 from his Canadian record, when running 19.80 in his semi-final), while the incredibly fast-finishing and low-dipping Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre got up for bronze in 20.12, sneaking in ahead of Britain's Adam Gemili, who was also given 20.12, with Churandy Martina from the Netherlands also missing out in the photo finish, getting fifth in 19.85.

“To come fourth place in an Olympic final with the same time as bronze is heartbreaking,” said Gemili. “I’m just gutted. But there’s more to come from me. I’m already looking forward to the World champs in London next year.”

Two of the other expected medal challengers never even made it this far, the American Justin Gatlin and Bolt’s Jamaican team mate Yohan Blake both failing to get out of the semi-finals the previous day.

LaShawn Merritt, already the Olympic 400m bronze medallist in Rio, ended up sixth in 20.19

There was better news for the Americans in the decathlon, Ashton Eaton becoming just the third man in history to win back-to-back Olympic titles, following Bob Mathias (1948 and 1952) and Daley Thompson (1980 and 1984), improving the Olympic record in the process with his 8893 points, with Kevin Mayer from France winning silver with 8834 points.

Before Eaton came along, fellow American Dan O’Brien was the only man to have won the Olympic, world and world indoor combined events titles, as well as setting world records indoors and out.

Eaton has now done all of those things. Twice over.

“To win two Olympic golds in a row like Daley Thompson is very special,” said Eaton. “One day, I’m going to have to meet Daley, shake his hand and thank him for giving me something to chase after.”

Dalilah Muhammad also made it an American sweep in the 400m hurdles winning in 53.13 seconds, ahead of Sara Slott Petersen from Denmark, who ran a national record of 53.55, with Ashley Spencer from the US third in 53.72

Caster Semenya also maintained her supremacy in the women’s 800m, the South African sitting behind a sharp pace set by reigning World champion Marina Arzamasova from Belarus, before unleashing her powerful kick to post the fastest semi-final qualification time of 1:58.15.

Two almost equally supreme looking women, Margaret Wambui of Kenya and Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, also banked the two automatic qualification spots for Saturday’s final, the only question now being can they test Semenya’s supremacy.

Once again supremacy being the story of the night in Rio, really.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics