LONDON – Usain Bolt can go ahead and trademark that now-famous line in his unforgettable Jamaican accent – "One, two, tree." That’s how many gold medals he has defended from the 2008 Beijing Games, helping Jamaica win Saturday night's 4x100 in world-record fashion at Olympic Stadium.
Bolt single-handedly won gold in the final 100 meters, with the U.S. and Jamaica making the final handoff in a dead heat. After Jamaica's Yohan Blake tracked down America's Tyson Gay on leg three, all that was left was for Bolt to win an even race to the finish. And as he has done so often, Bolt exploded in the anchor leg with his long strides, easily outdistancing American Ryan Bailey by five meters and finishing in 36.84. That was good enough to shave two-tenths of a second off the previous world record of 37.04 and gave Bolt ownership of the three most coveted world records in men's track: the 100 meters, 200 meters and the 4x100 relay.
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"Once Yohan got the baton and was right next to Tyson, then the race was all over," said Jamaica's Michael Frater, who ran the second leg and handed off to Blake. "Then it was just a matter of how fast we were going to run."
And the world record? Blake might have summed it up best.
"We're not normal," Blake said. "To run 36 [seconds] is not normal."
The U.S. easily took silver, matching the world record at 37.04, while Trinidad and Tobago captured bronze at 38.12 after the Canadians were disqualified for running on their lane line on the final curve.
The relay gold gives Bolt one more bragging point in the legendary status he has been chasing, as he becomes the first Olympian in track and field history to defend the 100, 200 and 4x100 gold medals. And it socks one particular critic square in the nose – International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, who absurdly said Bolt wouldn't reach legendary status until he's at the top "for almost 20 years" like some Olympic sailing "legends."
When Bolt heard Rogge's remarks, he could only shrug.
"I would like to answer with a question: What else do I need to do to prove myself as a legend?" Bolt said. "World-record holder in both events [100 and 200]. I've won both events twice at the Olympics. I've won world championship gold medals. I've broken the world record many times, so I don't know what else to do, really. Next time you see [Rogge], I think you should ask him what Usain needs to do."
One thing was clear Saturday night: That question didn't need to be posed to the U.S. 4x100 relay team, which was shaken up just to attack Bolt in a new and different way.
The U.S. put its strongest 100-meter men in the middle – Justin Gatlin taking on the second leg and Tyson Gay in the third – in hopes of getting a sizeable lead going into the final leg against the Jamaican superstar. The hope was that, with a lead, the 6-foot-4 Bailey might be able to match Bolt's long stride down the stretch. But the lead never materialized, and Bailey was left to win an even race at the end.
Trell Kimmons and Gatlin actually had the Americans in the lead going into the third leg, but Bolt's heir apparent, Jamaican superstar Blake, tracked down Gay to give Bolt a runoff with Bailey in the final 100. Bolt wasted no time pulling ahead, striding away from Bailey in the first 30 meters and opening the defining margin down the stretch.
But despite the dominance of the Jamaicans in the 100 and 200 – winning five of the six total medals in those two marquee races – the U.S. entered Saturday feeling it had a chance to pull a shocker. And while the outcome wasn't what the Americans desired, Gatlin said it was a sign of the U.S. being ready to challenge for sprint supremacy again.
"We went out there and we put on a great show," Gatlin said. "We broke our American record [of 37.40] twice. That American record was standing for 20 years before we even touched down in London. To leave London with a 37.04, which was the world record last year, it shows that America is getting [itself] together. We're back and we want to put on a great show for next year [in the world championships] as well."
Gay, who said he "filled a hole in his heart" with his first Olympic medal Saturday night, backed Gatlin up with some swagger of his own, suggesting the U.S. team still isn't running its best races against the Jamaicans.
"We gave it our best and they've got a tough team," Gay said. "At the end of the day, we've still got athletes sitting at home who can contribute to our relay team as well. We've still got a lot of time to get healthy. I didn't even have a full season. I can run a better turn. Ryan Bailey, he's young and he's about to get better. We're all going to get better. At the end of the day, they're on and we can't take anything from them. But I think we can run 36.8 [seconds] as well."
The Americans will have another chance to prove themselves soon enough, with the world track and field championships set for Moscow in August of 2013.
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- Usain Bolt
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- Tyson Gay