When Usain Bolt hangs his running boots, the three days of August 14, 18 & 19 of 2016 Rio Games will forever be etched in his memory. He ran fastest in 100m on August 14, won the 200m on August 18 and then anchored the Jamaican quartet to victory in 4x100m relay on August 19. On August 21, the world’s greatest athlete of modern era will celebrate his 30th birthday but the gift for this occasion has already arrived in the form of an unprecedented athletic triple-triple. Bolt couldn’t have had a better present than nine gold medals out of nine Olympic sprint finals spanning over three Olympic games in 2008 at Beijing, 2012 in London and now 2016 at Rio. What Bolt achieved at Rio is unlikely to be repeated easily. Much before the 2016 Olympic Games began, Bolt had invited the world to see him make Olympic history in Brazil and he has fulfilled that promise.
Usain Bolt won his first Olympic gold in 100m in the 2008 Beijing Games. It was not merely a victory since it also signaled Bolt’s arrival on the global athletic scene. Besides earning personal accolades, Bolt was also transforming Jamaica into a sprint nation. By the time the Beijing Olympics came to an end, Bolt was already a star with three gold medals against his name. In the 2012 London Olympics, Bolt attained the tag of a track legend by repeating his Beijing victories in 100 and 200m sprints and 4×100 relay. Long before the 2016 Rio Games got underway, speculations were rife about the possibility of the Jamaican’s triple-triple. Since the London Games, Bolt was an athletics celebrity but he had to curtail his appearances in several major events because of a spate of injuries. He missed the Jamaican Olympic trials a month ago because of a hamstring tear and his name in his nation’s Olympic squad could only be including after Jamaica’s Olympic committee upheld his appeal for inclusion without touching the field. However, the big man was confident of his abilities and he declared that he was living only for the triple-triple.
He began his Rio campaign by winning his third straight 100-meter final in the Olympics on Sunday August 14. This, by itself, was a feat that no man or woman had previously accomplished and few even dreamed. But Bolt was not through. He had two more events left for his avowed objective. When someone said Bolt can become immortal, Bolt responded by saying that only after winning 200m and 4×100 relay at Rio, he can sign off Immortal.
The Jamaican reached his second landmark on Thursday night, when he outran the 200m field for a 19.78s victory. This was a monumental achievement as it signaled three Olympic golds in 100m and three in 200m. But Bolt was not satisfied for two reasons; one, the time taken for the 200m run was too far away from his 7-year old world mark of 19.19 and two; he still needed to finish on top in the 4×100 relay on Saturday night to reach the historic triple-triple. But Bolt’s Rio campaign was not about time records. He just needed to run ahead of his competitors in every event to realize his ambition and make the tryst with Olympic history.
On the penultimate night of track-and-field in Rio, the only disappointments were the empty seats in the vast stadium. For the third time in five days, Usain Bolt was the focus of everybody’s attention. The evening was warm, when the first-leg Jamaican runner Asafa Powell blasted off the blocks and handed the baton to Yohan Blake, the 100m London Games silver-medalist. Blake did his part and found Nickel Ashmeade ready to run the next 100m before giving the stick to Bolt, who waited at the anchor stretch in lane four. Now Bolt had USA’s Trayvon Bromell to his left and Asuka Cambridge of Japan to his left. But with the explosive Jamaican immediately breaking away, no one had even a semblance of a chance. Swallowing up large chunks of earth with every stride, Bolt made it breathtakingly easy in the end. As he crossed the finish line, he became a part of Olympic history.