Nine Olympic sprint finals, nine gold medals.
Usain Bolt carved his name in the Olympic record books as he anchored the Jamaican 4×100-meter relay team on Friday night, taking the gold for the third straight time in this race and claiming the ninth gold of his extraordinary career.
The relay gave Bolt an unprecedented triple-triple. He’s now won the 100 meters, the 200 meters and the 4×100-meter relay in Beijing in 2008, London in 2012 and Rio in 2016.
Her earlier victories in Brazil came in the 100 on Sunday night and the 200 on Thursday evening. As with the individual sprints, Bolt was ahead by a comfortable margin as he crossed the finish line. The only difference this time was the relay baton in his outstretched right arm.
With the victory, Bolt tied American sprinter and long jumper Carl Lewis and Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi as the only other track and field athletes to win nine golds. The only Olympian to win more is U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, who upped his record to 23 with five golds in Rio.
“I told you guys I was gonna do it,” the never-modest Bolt told NBC. “I’ve set the bar high. That’s what I came here to do. I’m extremely proud of myself.”
Bolt, 29, has said repeatedly that this is his last Olympics even though he was nearly as dominant in Rio as in the previous two Summer Games.
Asked again if he might compete in Tokyo in 2020, he said, “No, definitely not.”
The American men, who have had chronic problems handling the baton in this event in recent Olympics, finished third. But they were disqualified afterward when officials ruled that one of their baton exchanges was outside the legal zone.
Allyson Felix wins fifth gold of her career
On the women’s side, Allyson Felix made history of her own and the American women made the most of their second chance in the women’s 4×100 relay. They smoked the field, including the archrival Jamaicans, in 41.01, the second-fastest time in history.
The Americans only made it into the final under the most unusual of circumstances. They dropped the baton in their heat and appeared to be out of the competition. But they appealed, saying Felix was bumped by a Brazilian runner in the next lane, causing the Americans to bungle the passoff.
The appeal was granted, but the Americans still had to run a makeup race by themselves in order to post a time good enough to make the final eight.
They did that on Thursday night, running the fastest time in the field. They did it again on Friday night with the other seven teams present, easily defeating a Jamaican team that was loaded with sprinters who have won individual sprints in Rio and in previous games.
Felix, who ran the second leg, won the fifth gold medal of her glorious career, the most by any woman track athlete in Olympic history. She also won a silver in Rio in the 400 meters, the third silver of her career. This is her fourth Olympics.
Her teammates in the relay were Tori Bowie, English Gardener and Tianna Bartoletta.
Kenyan Woman Remain Dominant
Kenya took gold and silver in the women’s 5,000 meters, keeping up the country’s powerful showing in the distance races.
Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana, who set the world record by more than 14 seconds in the 10,000 meters a week ago, took a large early lead and appeared headed for another gold.
But Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot, who was second in the 10,000, steadily reeled in Ayana and surged past her with two laps to go, leaving her far behind. Cheruiyot’s Kenyan teammate Hellen Onsando Obiri took silver as Ayana faded.
The Kenyan women have also won the 1,500 meters and the marathon, and taken second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 10,000 meters.