He is the only Olympian who could have an entire stadium chanting his name.
Usain Bolt‘s position as the greatest sprinter in the world was confirmed once again on a wet, humid night inside Rio’s Olympic Stadium, as he took 200 meters gold for the third Games in succession.
The time was nothing special by the Jamaican’s standards — 19.78 seconds — but his ability to deliver with the world watching shows he deserves to be ranked among the true greats of sport.
And he knows it.
“I don’t need to prove anything else. What else can I do to prove to the world I am the greatest?” the 29-year-old said after winning his eighth Olympic title.
“I am trying to be one of the greatest. Be among Muhammad Ali and Pele,” he added.
“I hope after these Games I will be in that bracket.”
Since exploding onto the global scene in 2008, breaking world records over 100m and 200m, Bolt has made a habit of making victory look easy, coasting across the finish line and soaking in the adulation of the crowd.
Not on Thursday. Bolt was straining every sinew of his 6″5′ frame as he streaked away from the field. Canada’s Andre de Grasse and Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre were nowhere near the champion in second and third respectively.
Bolt will return to the track on Friday, looking to create more history and complete the “Triple-Triple” with victory in the 4x100m relay.
But as he prepares to turn 30 on Sunday, there are signs that Father Time is catching up with the fastest man alive.
“I ran hard around the turn,” said Bolt. “On the straight, my body didn’t respond. I’m getting old.”
This was his slowest 200m time in a major final since 2008 and, having previously said he will retire after next year’s World Championships, Bolt seems to have the end on his mind.
Asked whether this would be his final Games, he replied: “I want to say so. I think this is the last one.”
The result of the race was never in doubt from the second the gun sounded, Bolt quickly building a commanding lead and running the life out of his challengers.
The damp track perhaps put paid to any thoughts of Bolt breaking the world record he set in 2009 over this, his preferred distance.
Not that it mattered to the slightly less-than-capacity crowd, who arrived expecting to scream his name and enjoy Bob Marley tracks over the loud speaker.
And in that sense he did not disappoint. On the Olympic stage, he never has.
“All of them are special,” Bolt said when asked which of his eight gold medals is his most treasured. “The 200m is my favorite event. There is a lot of focus. I am relieved.”
The emphatic margin of victory disappointed De Grasse, who added to the bronze he’d won behind Bolt in the 100m.
“I’m really happy with two medals, but my race today could have been better,” admitted the 21-year-old. “I couldn’t really tell what happened. I came off the bend and tried to do something, tried to go, but maybe I used up too much energy in the semifinal yesterday.
“I didn’t think I had, but maybe I did. There was nothing there.
“I’m really happy with two medals under my belt. But yesterday I ran relaxed. My race today could have been better.”
Lemaitre emerged from an almighty battle for bronze, taking the medal despite being awarded the exact same race time as Britain’s Adam Gemili.
“I knew I could get this medal,” he said. “Last year was difficult. I was not as fast as I wanted.
“I hope I can continue like this for the future. For the moment I am just happy to win this medal. I don’t know what to say.”
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