Usain Bolt spread his arms wide as his name was announced to the Olympic Stadium crowd late Thursday. He flashed a grin toward a television camera and wiggled his eyebrows mischievously.
Lowering himself to his knees, he pointed a finger to the sky, where droplets from a light rain were swirling in a cool, steady wind. He lowered his eyes to the blue track, making his gold chain dangle from his neck.
Then he was off, and anyone could have predicted the rest.
In what might have been the final individual race of his illustrious Olympic career, Bolt won the gold medal in the men’s 200 meters, obliterating the other competitors in a contest devoid of tension, further cementing his standing as the most dominant sprinter in history.
It was Bolt’s eighth career gold medal, and he made it look easy. No one came close. His time — 19.78 seconds — was well ahead of that of Andre De Grasse of Canada, who took silver in 20.02. Christophe Lemaitre of France won bronze in 20.12.
“I don’t need to prove anything else,” Bolt said. “What else can I do to prove to the world I am the greatest?”
In a way, he was racing against himself. The only question before the race seemed to be whether Bolt might break his world record of 19.19, set seven years ago in Berlin. He had said that was his goal in Rio, and when he crossed the finish line, a tinge of disappointment was apparent in his face and posture.
Regardless, no one will question his stature in history. On Sunday, Bolt, 29, hurtled past his competitors to win the 100-meter dash with apparent ease, becoming the first person to win three consecutive gold medals in any Olympic track and field event. He doubled that feat on Thursday in the 200.
He has one more event on his Olympic itinerary in Rio de Janeiro to make it three gold medals at three Olympics in a row: the men’s 4×100 relay tonight.
Bolt said on Sunday, after winning his first gold medal of the summer, that he felt he needed two more at these games to “become immortal.” He had previously said he planned to retire after the world championships next year.
As such, he seemed intent on soaking in every last moment, before and after the race.
Bolt separated himself from the pack as he came around the turn, unspooling his long legs on the track, which had a slight sheen from the rain. He was puffing out his cheeks down the final stretch. De Grasse and the rest were several feet behind him, but Bolt never let up.
When it was over, he dropped to his knees and raised his arms toward the stands. As the other competitors shuffled off the track, Bolt took a solitary walk around the stadium, a flag slung around his shoulders, as Bob Marley songs played over the speakers.
The man long considered to be Bolt’s main rival, Justin Gatlin of the United States, failed to qualify for the final round after running a time of 20.13 in the semifinal on Wednesday. Afterward, Bolt noted that Gatlin, at 34, was getting old.
Ashton Eaton likes to view the decathlon as a competition with himself, not with others.
By that standard, he lost on Thursday night: failing to approach his own world record score of 9,045 points over the 10 events. But judged by the traditional Olympic measuring stick, his performance in Rio was very much a success.
Though he was pushed harder than expected by the young, fast-emerging Frenchman Kevin Mayer, Eaton still defended his Olympic title. His total of 8,893 points tied an Olympic record and was plenty for a gold medal in the traditional two-day test of speed, skill, strength and endurance.
Eaton joined Bob Mathias of the United States and Daley Thompson of Britain as the only men to win two Olympic decathlon gold medals.
Eaton also joined his wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, as a medalist in Rio. Theisen-Eaton, who trains with Ashton under coach Harry Marra, represents Canada and won a bronze medal last week in the heptathlon, the seven-event women’s competition.
Eaton, a 28-year-old from Oregon, overcame a string of injuries — nagging and more significant — this season to defend his decathlon title, including a torn hamstring shortly before the U.S. Olympic Trials.
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