Junior Almanac – Athletics: Bolt wins, again!

by Nicholas Obst

 
The starters for the men’s 4×100 metre relay jogged up the race of the Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange. They emerged from the weird artificial fog which clouded the tunnel, and they performed their coordinated manoeuvres one-by-one.

 

Trinidad and Tobago went first, led by 2008 silver medallist Richard Thompson. Then came Canada, spearheaded by an in-form Andre de Grasse. Nobody really cared. There was only one team and one athlete who mattered in this race, and everyone was waiting for him. China and Japan came next, but they only served to delay the arrival of the greatest sprinter the world has ever seen. They only served to delay the arrival of Usain Bolt.

 

Finally, the Jamaicans arrived on the track, pointing to the cameras in perfect harmony. Bolt was there, joined by the team who so many worried would let him down. Asafa Powell, once the world record holder, had slipped a long way from his peak, and Yohan Blake was not as good as he was in London. Nickel Ashmeade, the least known of the team, was a good runner, but Jamaica had been beaten by Japan in the heats and there was always the worry that either the Japanese or Americans would take the gold.

 

The Americans arrived next, with Justin Gatlin leading the charge. He was not directly against Bolt, but the battle shaped up as a contest between the two of them. It represented good versus evil. In one corner there was Bolt, who epitomises the spirit of Jamaica with his effortless swagger and his crowd-pleasing charm. He was looking to win another Olympic gold medal, having won eight from eight attempts. In the other corner was Gatlin, who served a four-year doping ban from 2006 to 2010 and was Bolt’s only real challenger in the 100 metres, if it could be said that Bolt had any challengers. The stage was set, and the arrivals of the Brazilian and British teams just delayed proceedings.

 

The starters lined up on the blocks, with Powell of Jamaica up against Mike Rodgers of the USA. The three main contenders lined up next to each other, with Japan’s Ryota Yamagata next to Powell in lane five. The gun went off, and the race began. Powell was off well, and he had firmly established his team in the race by the time his leg was done. Then came Blake, who shot out of the blocks like an arrow out of a bow. Gatlin was keeping up, and Shota Iizuka was up there, but Jamaica’s change was flawless and they looked like they would be tough to beat.

 

It was still level as the third leg drew to a close, with the three challengers going very hard in attempt to poach the lead. Yoshihire Kiryu finished the leg in front, but the race was all but level and the result was inevitable. Ashmeade handed the baton to Bolt, who strode effortlessly past his competition and into the lead. Trayvon Bromell and Aska Cambridge laboured as they tried in vain to run down the big Jamaican, but he was faster than both despite looking as if he was not trying. The race was all but over halfway down the home stretch, and the Jamaicans danced and sung in unison in front of a cheering Brazilian crowd. They were not regarded as certain winners by any stretch of the imagination, but by the time they crossed the finish line they had made all who tipped against them look stupid. They were too good, and Bolt finished his last Olympic race in the same way as he had run every race before.

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