Already having completed one part of his unique “triple triple” in Rio, Usain Bolt will now go for a second gold at the 2016 Olympics and eighth overall in the event he has always considered his favorite. While it is his performances in the showpiece event on the track, the 100 meters, that have garnered the most attention, it is the 200m where the Jamaican is most at home.
It is a testament to Bolt's greatness that he is the world-record holder and now three time Olympic champion at 100m, despite his unusual height for an elite sprinter making it a constant challenge to swiftly get out of the blocks. That was evident once more in Sunday's 100m final at the Olympic Stadium, when Bolt trailed rival Justin Gatlin for the first part of the race. Still, the 29-year-old's devastating speed when he hit his stride was again enough to blow the competition away. Over 200m he has even more ground to sprint away from the rest of the field.
Since winning his first gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Bolt has not lost a single major championship final over 200m, becoming the first man to defend his Olympic title. He is also the world-record holder at the distance with a time of 19.19 and has at least a share of four of the five fastest times in history.
In Rio, Bolt is not just targeting gold but becoming the first man to go under the elusive 19-second barrier.
“It’s something I really want and I’ve focused on that,” he said ahead of the first round of the 200m on Tuesday. “This is one of the biggest things for me. I’m more nervous over the 200m than anything else.
“For the 100m it’s never really stressful. I know where I am weakest and strongest. But when I get to the 200m I’m always nervous right from the rounds to the day of the final. I think it’s because I love the 200m the most.”
Bolt eased to victory in his heat and will go in the second of the three semifinals on Wednesday night. Unlike in the 100m, when he bemoaned that the final took place just over an hour after the semifinals, this time he will have a full 24 hours to recover for the final.
Bolt's chief threat could again come from Gatlin, who also won his first-round heat and has set the fastest time in the world this year of 19.75 when winning the U.S. trials. Before Bolt came along, it was Americans who dominated the 200m. Indeed, prior to 2008, Americans had won 11 of 18 medals in the men's 200m. As well as Gatlin, the U.S. challenge in Rio will come from LaShawn Merritt, who grabbed bronze in the 400m on Sunday night.
The man who took bronze in the 100m, Andre de Grasse, should also be a threat to land a medal over 200m, particularly after setting the fastest time in the first round.
Four years ago in London it was a Jamaica one-two-three, with Yohan Blake and Warren Weir taking silver and bronze behind their compatriot Bolt. Blake has been beset by injuries for much of the time since, but looked good in the opening round and will go in the third semifinal on Wednesday alongside Gatlin.
Prediction: Usain Bolt may be slightly less dominant than he once was over 100m, but over 200m he remains simply unstoppable.
Usain Bolt – 1/20
Justin Gatlin – 14/1
Andre de Grasse – 14/1
LaShawn Merritt – 33/1
Yohan Blake – 33/1
Bruno Hortelano – 50/1
Men's 200m Rio Olympics 2016 Schedule
Semifinals: Wednesday, 9 p.m. EDT
Final: Thursday, 9.30 p.m. EDT