Photo: Job Done! Usain Bolt celebrates his third gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games after anchoring Jamaica to victory in the 4x100m on Friday night. Bolt has now won 9 gold medals in three consecutive Olympic Games.(AP Photo)
Usain Bolt made his intentions known long before the start of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was going there to win gold in the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m to complete his triple set of medals and achieve an almost unthinkable feat of three gold medals in three consecutive Olympic Games, in what would be his final Olympic experience as an athlete.
Having taken care of part one on Sunday night and part two on Thursday night, all by himself, part three would take a team effort on Friday night, and his teammates, to a man, promised him they would get him the baton in such a position that he could fulfil his dream and then ride off into the sunset.
Jamaica’s business on day 8 of track and field began with the women’s 4x400 qualifiers and the quartet of Christine Day, Anniesha McLaughlin, Chris-Ann Gordon and Novlene Williams-Mills safely navigated their way to the final, winning heat two in a time of 3:22.38 ahead of Great Britain 3:24.81 and Canada 3:24.94. Their arch rivals, the USA, had already won heat one in a time of 3:21.42.
The Jamaican men followed suit shortly after, getting the better of the USA in heat 1, winning in 2:58.29 to the US’s 2:58.38. Trinidad and Tobago was third in 2:58.84, but was later disqualified and Botswana elevated to third.
Great Britain won heat two but they were also disqualified and second place Belgium elevated to first place, ahead of the Bahamas into second and Cuba into third. With both Great Britain and Trinidad and Tobago not making it to the final, Jamaica’s chances of winning a medal in the final track event in Rio have risen significantly.
With the qualifiers out of the way, it was time to hunt medals, starting with the women’s 4x100m finals.
The USA team with Tori Bowie on anchor, had needed a re-run to get into the final, but they came away with the gold medal in an impressive 41.01s ahead of Jamaica, with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on anchor, finished in 41.36 for the silver medal. Great Britain ran a national record time of 41.77 for their bronze medal.
And then it was the moment that most people inside the stadium were waiting for. The men’s 4x100m final. Usain Bolt’s final Olympic relay race. The USA was drawn in lane three, just inside Jamaica in lane 4; it could not have been scripted any better.
The veteran Asafa Powell, who had also announced his Olympic retirement in Brazil, was on lead off for Jamaica and he handed over to Yohan Blake on the backstretch just ahead of the exchange between Mike Rodgers and Justin Gatlin. The handover between Blake and Nickel Ashmeade on the third leg was a fraction of a second before the handover between Gatlin and Tyson Gay, so evenly matched were both team. Both men ran a good curve but on the final handoff the uninvited Japan was squarely in the mix.
Their anchor leg runner, Jamaican born Asuka Cambridge, received the stick moments before Usain Bolt but the big man had him covered after only three strides and from then on, it was only a matter of Bolt and the finish line. He powered through the top of the straight, widening the gap with each of his long, loping strides, leaving his opponents to battle for the minor places. Bolt flashed his usual smile as he crossed the line and took his team to victory in 37.27s, showing three fingers as if to suggest, mission complete, the triple-triple.
Brommell chased Cambridge desperately but was unable to overhaul the Japanese who held on to claim a famous silver medal. To add insult to injury, the USA was disqualified from the race and the bronze medal awarded to, Canada who had 200m silver medallist Andre De Grasse on anchor.
Bolt and the other sprinters will now have an opportunity to put their feet up and watch their other teammates hunt 4x400m glory on Saturday night.