Nick Zaccardi: Bolt enters all-time debate with win in 200 meters, more track thoughts - Sports Illustrated

Bolt enters all-time debate with win in 200 and more track thoughts

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LONDON -- Four thoughts from Thursday's track and field finals, where the three most dominant men in the sport lit up Olympic Stadium ...

1. Usain Bolt gets his double-double. Bolt led a Jamaican sweep of the 200 meters, matching the fourth fastest time ever, 19.32, identical to Michael Johnson's winning time in 1996. With the win, Bolt became the first man to sweep the 100 and 200 at consecutive Olympics. He was merely one stride ahead of training partner Yohan Blake (19.44) with fellow countryman Warren Weir, 22, well back for bronze (19.84). Not that it was in any doubt. Bolt eased up in the final meters and appeared to check the clock as he crossed the finish line, raising his eyebrows and putting an index finger to his lips. He then did pushups for good measure. He'll go for his sixth career Olympic gold medal in the 4x100 relay Saturday. Carl Lewis is the only sprinter with a greater collection of Olympic golds (nine).

William Hill has already released its odds for Bolt at the 2016 Olympics (when he'll be 29): 5/4 to win one gold. 6/4 to win two golds. 3/1 to win no golds. 16/1 to win three golds. Is Bolt the greatest track and field athlete of all time? That's up for debate. He's lacking the longevity of Lewis, Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi and four-time discus champ Al Oerter. Who's to say Bolt's 2016 Olympics won't mirror Michael Phelps' 2012 Games. The rest of the world's best sprinters are catching up (slowly, but they are faster compared to Beijing), and Blake, 22, now has four years to make up .12 seconds on Bolt in the 100 and 200.

Of note, American Wallace Spearmon was fourth in 19.90. It's the third time in Olympic history the U.S. has failed to medal in the event (not counting the 1980 boycott).

2. Ashton Eaton is the world's greatest athlete. The former Oregon Duck followed up his world record at the U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field by just missing the Olympic record of 8,893 points. Eaton scored 8,869, the eighth-highest total in history. Two-time reigning world champion Trey Hardee took silver with 8,671 points 11 months after Tommy John surgery. Cuban Leonel Suarez (8,523) recorded his second straight Olympic bronze. Like Bolt's win, this competition was never in much doubt. Eaton broke the Olympic decathlon record in the first event, the 100, and had the highest point total in three of the first five events Thursday. His lead was insurmountable so long as he didn't no-height in the pole vault or foul out of the discus.

Eaton is just 24. Bryan Clay was 28 when he won his Olympic decathlon title. Dan O'Brien was 30 when he captured gold in 1996. It's certainly possible Eaton will enter the 2016 Olympics as the favorite to win the decathlon again. If he did, he'd become the third man to do so, joining American Bob Mathias (1948, 1952) and Brit Daley Thompson (1980, 1984).

3. David Rudisha's performance was undoubtedly better than Bolt's and Eaton's. In the fastest 800 final of all time, the untouchable Kenyan led from start to finish and broke his world record with a winning time of 1:40.91. The bullet points on this race are astounding. Rudisha became the first man to break 1:41 in the two-lap race. Seven of the eight runners set personal bests. Duane Solomon (fourth, 1:42.53) and Nick Symmonds (fifth, 1:42.95) became the second- and third-fastest Americans of all time behind Solomon's coach, Johnny Gray. Silver medalist Nijel Amos, 18, of Botswana set a new national and world junior record in 1:41.73.

Back to Rudisha. He came into the Olympics as track and field's biggest lock for gold, and he unbelievably outperformed expectations. There was almost no doubt after he went out in 23.4 seconds for 200 meters, and he widened the gap going through 400 (49.28) and 600 (1:14.30) before finishing in 26.61 for the last 200. Olympic Stadium was prepared for history. As he crossed the finish line, The Chemical Brothers' Galvanize blared, with its refrain "Don't hold back." Rudisha certainly did not.

4. It's one-two for the U.S. in the men's triple jump. Christian Taylor followed up his world championship with an Olympic title, while Will Claye bettered his world bronze (and Olympic long jump bronze) with a silver. Taylor almost fouled out of the final but came through on his third jump, 17.15 meters, to gain another three jumps. Taylor then leaped a leading 17.81 on his fourth. Claye followed a few minutes later with a 17.62. In the event that crowned the first modern Olympic champion (American James Connolly in 1896), Taylor won the first U.S. gold since Kenny Harrison in 1996.