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.
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.