RIO DE JANEIRO — The world’s fastest man remains untouched at the Olympics.
Usain Bolt of Jamaica won the men’s 100 meters in 9.81 seconds on Sunday night, becoming the first man in history to win three consecutive Olympic golds in the 100 meters. Carl Lewis is the only other man to have won back-to-back titles.
America’s Justin Gatlin finished second in 9.89 seconds, and Canada’s Andre De Grasse finished third in 9.91. Gatlin won the 2004 Olympic gold medal before serving a four-year drug suspension for testosterone from ’06 to ’10. He also finished second behind Bolt in the men’s 100 meters at the 2013 and ’15 world championships. At 34 years old, Rio could be his third and last Olympics.
Bolt will turn 30 on Aug. 21 and has repeatedly said that Rio will be his last Olympics. He plans to compete at next summer’s world championships in London before retiring.
Some quick thoughts on the race:
Bolt’s work is not over
Bolt came to Rio with three medals to defend and he still has two to go—the 200 and 4x100-meter relay. The men’s 200 meters will begin on Tuesday with the final slated for Thursday night. The men’s 4x100 heats will be held on Thursday morning before the final is held on Friday night for Bolt’s last Olympic race.
Bolt is heavily favored to win gold in the 200 meters (his favorite distance) and he has not lost a final at the distance since the 2012 Jamaican trials. Later that summer, he redeemed that loss with a victory at the 2012 Olympics in London.
If Bolt manages to win gold in all three races, his nine career gold medals would tie Paavo Nurmi and Lewis for the most by a track and field athlete. Ray Ewry won 10 gold medals in his career but the IOC does not recognize the medals won at the 1906 Olympics, where he won two.
Another missed opportunity for Gatlin
Gatlin got out to a better start than Bolt, but it wasn’t enough. Bolt caught Gatlin with about 20 meters to go and hung on for the gold. For Gatlin, that’s been the story for much of the last four years.
Last year might have been Gatlin’s best opportunity to beat Bolt. Gatlin set a personal best of 9.74 in the 100 meters at the Diamond League meet in Doha and was on track for a fast world championships in Beijing. However Gatlin’s mental errors cost him. He started to swing his arms wildly as he approached the finish, slowing him down.
If this was Gatlin’s last Olympics, he leaves with a medal of every color for the 100 meters. Not a bad career at the Summer Games.
The future is bright
This may have been Bolt and Gatlin’s final Olympics. The next best stars under 25 in the final who could make noise at the 2020 Olympics are De Grasse, South Africa’s Akani Simbine, France’s Jimmy Vicaut and U.S.’s Trayvon Bromell.
Last summer, De Grasse and Bromell tied for the bronze medal in the 100 meters at the world championships. De Grasse gets the tiebreaker with his Olympic bronze medal and personal best of 9.91 in Rio. Bromell is still faster overall—his personal best is 9.84—but the former USC star put together a better Olympics.
For many people, that was the last time they’ll watch Bolt
The men’s 100 meters is one of the moments where the sporting world stops and appreciates the breathtaking, super-human speed of the world’s fastest humans. For many, the 100 meters suffices as their track and field fill every four years, which means this may be one of the last times they watch Bolt race.
Bolt became a household name at the 2008 Olympics when he won the 100 and 200 meters and the 4x100 relay, all in world-record time. The three-peat happened again at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin but even faster. Bolt answered those asking just how fast could he go, lowering world records to 9.58 for the 100 and 19.19 for the 200.
The only blemish on Bolt’s record was a false start that cost him gold in the 100 meters at the 2011 worlds. Redemption came in the form of three Olympic gold medals in London in the same three events.
The story continued at the 2013 and ’15 world championships: Bolt won the 100 and 200 meters and 4x100 relay. And now, his story will end at the 2017 world championships.