Usain Bolt made it a perfect nine for nine in Olympic finals, completing a unique “triple-triple” of sprinting gold, as he anchored Jamaica to victory in the men’s 4x100 meters relay in Rio. Just as he had done in Beijing and London, Bolt followed up gold in the 100m and 200m by helping his country reign supreme in the relay.
After Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake and Nickel Ashmeade got the baton to Bolt, Jamaica was neck and neck with Japan and the U.S. But there was still never any doubt that he would guide his team home. There was no world record this time, as there had been in the fina in 2008 and 2012, but Bolt still won in style, able to relax over the line and savor the moment in his final appearance on an Olympic track. The time wasn't exactly slow, either. Its 37.27 seconds was the fourth fastest in history.
By the end, Japan, anchored by Asaka Cambridge, trailed behind, but can still be delighted by a hugely impressive silver and an Asian record to back up its second place finish in last year's World Championship.
For the United States, featuring Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Trayvon Brommell, afeter dropping the baton in 2008 and being stripped of silver in 2012 after Gay tested positive for a banned steroid, there was further bitter disappointment. While they crossed the line in third, news came through, while it was still celebrating on the track, that the team had been disqualified for an early baton exchange. Instead Canada, anchored by 100m bronze medalist and 200m silver medalist Andre De Grasse, was moved up to take bronze.
The focus, though, was on one man. And, if this is the end for Bolt at the Olympic Games, as the 29-year-old has repeatedly said that it will be, he exits with his reputation as not just the greatest sprinter in history but at least one of the greatest Olympians of all time completely secure.
With nine gold medals he joins a group comprising Soviet gymnastics great Larisa Latynina, Finnish long-distance supremo Paavo Nurmi and Americans Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis, who for a time reigned supreme in the pool and on the track, respectively. Only Michael Phelps, who took his tally to 23 in Rio, has now won more.
Nobody, though, has been as dominant of their discipline for as long as Bolt. Only three other men have ever completed the sprint treble of 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. But none have ever come close to doing so in three straight Games.
There has never been anyone like him before on the track and there may never be so again. It is no surprise then that Rio’s Olympic Stadium featured a sizable crowd eager for the chance to catch a last glimpse of Bolt on sport’s biggest stage.
But while Bolt’s Olympic career has seemingly been brought to a glorious close, Jamaica’s sprinting success is unlikely to be ending any time soon. Jamaica has now claimed 4x100m relay gold in the last seven major international competitions, taking in both Olympics and World Championships. And it has also now set the seven fastest times in history.
On its 4x100m relay team, it featured not only the greatest sprinter in history but former 100m world record holder Powell, the man with the second fastest time in history in both 100m and 200m, in Blake. Ashmeade, meanwhile, now has an Olympic gold to accompany the World Championship titles he helped Jamaica to in 2013 and 2015.
In Rio, Jamaica's dominance has been almost Bolt-like. It has won five of the six sprinting gold medals, with Elaine Thompson taking gold in both 100m and 200m. The only event Jamaica didn't win, the women's 4x100m relay, it took the silver in.
On the penultimate evening on the track in Rio, it was a night to pay tribute both to Bolt's place in the history books but also Jamaica's continued sprinting supremacy.