Just one obstacle remains for Usain Bolt to bring the curtain down on one of the great ever Olympic careers with a perfect golden record. With victory over 200 meters at Rio’s Olympic Stadium on Thursday evening, the Jamaican secured his eighth gold medal in his eight event dating back to Beijing in 2008. The 4x100m relay is now all that stands between him and a unique “triple-triple,” an achievement that no other sprinter has even got close to in the history of the Games.
While Bolt has remained dominant in Rio, the 29-year-old has been open about the challenges his body has faced at his third Olympics. After streaking clear to win 200m gold, Bolt’s first reaction was disappointment that he had not broken his own 19.19 world record. As he came down the final straight, he later said, the body simply didn’t respond as it once did. The strain of competing in multiple events and multiple rounds was now taking a toll. He has long since said that the Rio Olympics will be his last.
The 4x100m relay final on Friday night will be Bolt’s seventh race in as many days. Unsurprisingly, he did not run in the preliminary round of the 4x100m in Thursday’s morning session.
Without him, there was considerable pressure on the four Jamaicans who did make the run. Relays are an event where disaster is always just around the corner. A baton drop or a botched exchange from elimination and, in Jamaica’s case, from the end of Bolt’s quest for Olympic perfection.
To great relief, that didn’t happen for Jamaica and the quartet of Jevaughn Minzie, former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell, Nickel Ashmeade and Kemar Bailey-Cole, as they finished second behind Japan in their heat. With the exception of the 21-year-old Minzie, all have won relay gold for Jamaica at either the Olympics or World Championships.
While Bolt had been the superstar, Jamaica’s sprinting success extends far beyond the greatest of all time. Jamaica’s 4x100 relay team has won gold in the last two Olympic Games and the last four World Championships. Want a a further sign of its dominance? Jamaica has run the six fastest times of all time at the event, setting the current record of 36.84 seconds in the final of the London Olympics. Of course, it helps when you have the fastest man in history running the final leg down the straight. If he is even close to the lead, the gold medal is all but secure.
It was once the United States that was dominant in the relays. Looking to reclaim the crown for the first time since 2000, the U.S. went fastest in the first round with a team that included Tyson Gay, who lost his and his team’s silver medal in the event four years ago after testing positive for a banned steroid. The team should be boosted for the final with the inclusion of 100m silver medalist Justin Gatlin.
Canada will get its own boost, with 100m bronze medalist and 200m silver medalist Andre De Grasse coming into the team. Great Britain, the last country to claim 4x100 gold before Jamaica, will be hoping to get in the medal mix, too, as will Japan and China.
The focus, though, as it has been throughout his Olympic career, will be on Bolt.
Men’s 4x100m Relay FinalStart List
1. Great Britain
3. United States
8. Trinidad and Tobago
Jamaica — 1/4
United States — 3/1
Great Britain — 25/1
Canada — 33/1
Japan — 50/1
Trinidad & Tobago — 50/1
China — 50/1
Brazil — 100/1
Time: 9.35 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: NBC
Live Stream: NBCOLympics.com