LONDON—This time, Usain Bolt ran hard right to the finish. He even leaned at the line. Having built a big lead on the 4x100-metre relay anchor leg, Bolt knew he was about to earn his third gold medal in three events at the London Olympics. What he really wanted Saturday night was a world record, the only thing missing from his 2012 Games. So the Jamaican dispensed with the sort of “Look at me!” stuff he’s done at the end of races before—slapping his chest four years ago, putting a finger to his mouth to hush critics the other day—and focused on what he does better than anyone ever has. Sprinting. “Fans really enjoy a world record,” Bolt said later with a smile, “so I think they’ll forgive me for not posing.” Almost even with the last US runner when he got the baton, Bolt pulled away down the stretch and capped his perfect Olympics by leading Jamaica to the relay victory in a world-record 36.84 seconds. “A wonderful end to a wonderful week,” Bolt said. “What else do I need to do to prove myself as a legend?” After the win, he held up three fingers, one for each of his golds. He is now 6 for 6 in Olympic finals over his career—breaking four world records in the process, including three in Beijing in 2008. Bolt also heads home with an extra souvenir.
After winning Saturday, he pleaded with an official to let him keep the yellow baton he was clutching. Told he’d be disqualified if he didn’t hand it over, Bolt complied, and some nearby spectators booed. About 40 minutes later, that same official approached Bolt and returned the stick. Bolt responded with a bow of thanks and a chuckle, kissed the baton—and then asked his teammates to autograph it. One more possession to help him remember his performances at the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium, where any mention of Bolt’s name drew raucous cheers, countless camera flashes and chants of “Usain!” or “We want Bolt!” He reiterated that this could be it for him on track and field’s biggest stage. Bolt turns 26 on August 21, and refuses to commit to showing up at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. “It’s going to be hard to really do that. I’ve done all I want to do,” said Bolt, noting that he planned to go out on the town Saturday night. “I’ve got no more goals.” Bolt also earned medals in the 100 in 9.63 seconds—the second-fastest time in history—and the 200 in 19.32 on Thursday. The runner-up in both individual sprints, Bolt’s pal and training partner Yohan Blake, ran the third leg of the relay, following Nesta Carter and Michael Frater. The US quartet of Trell Kimmons, 100 bronze medalist Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey got the silver in 37.04, equaling the old record that Bolt helped set at last year’s world championships. Trinidad & Tobago took the bronze in 38.12. Canada, which was third across the line, was disqualified for running outside its lane, and its appeal was rejected.
As Blake and Gay rounded the race’s final curve, they were pretty much in sync, stride for stride. When that duo was done, the relay came down to Bolt vs Bailey, who was fifth in the 100 metres in 9.88. Not exactly a fair matchup. “It was over from there,” Blake said. After transferring the baton from his left hand to his right, Bolt churned up the track. Bailey had no chance. “Wow,” Bailey said. “He’s a monster.” Bolt kept increasing his advantage and actually spared his now-customary showboating at the finish, instead driving through the line on a windy, chilly night. “When he got the stick,” said Gay, who got his first Olympic medal, “there was nothing we could do about it.” Only after seeing the record time did Bolt start to celebrate. He mugged for the cameras with Blake, each doing a signature pose. Bolt did his “To the World” move, where he leans back and points to the sky. Blake curled his hands as if they were claws while making a scary face to match the nickname Bolt gave him, “The Beast.” “We are not human...We drop from space,” joked Blake, who said a woman ran up and kissed him on the cheek after the race. Bolt yanked off his white spikes and danced barefoot to the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” as it played on the arena’s loudspeakers. Later, wearing his latest gold medal, Bolt waved his fingers toward the stands, trying to get fans to do the wave. They did, of course.
He arrived at these Olympics with the stated intention of becoming a “living legend,” something he considered a done deal after his victory in the 200. Before Saturday’s race, the head of track and field’s governing body, Lamine Diack, agreed, saying the sprinter had “entered the legendary.” In more than a century of modern Olympics, no man had set world records while winning the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay—until Bolt did it in Beijing. None had won the 200 metres twice, let alone completed a 100-200 double twice—until Bolt did so in 2008 and 2012. Now he’s added a second consecutive sprint relay title, too, for a Double Triple. Jamaica won Saturday without Asafa Powell, who held the 100 world record from 2005 until Bolt claimed it in 2008, and was the anchor on the Jamaican team that won the 4x100 four years ago. Powell injured his groin and pulled up during the 100 in London. No matter. The team drafted a pretty decent guy to take his place on the final leg. Don’t forget, a chorus of questions greeted Bolt at these Olympics. Was he completely healthy? Was he still as fast as the guy who set the world records of 9.58 for the 100, and 19.19 for the 200, at the world championships three years ago? And, most of all, having lost twice to Blake at the Jamaican Olympic trials, could Bolt still claim to be the best in the world if he wasn’t even the best in his own country? International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge thinks any judgment of Bolt’s place in history needs to be withheld until his career is over. Rogge said it would take more than two superb Summer Games to cement Bolt’s status. Bolt was asked about Rogge’s comments. “Next time you see him, I think you need to ask him what Usain needs to do that no human man has ever done, because I’ve done it already,” Bolt said. “I don’t know what else to do, really.”