LONDON — Be it a gold medal or a souvenir from a record relay run, Usain Bolt always gets what he wants at the Olympics.
The Jamaican will leave London a perfect 3 for 3 — three events, three victories — just the way he departed Beijing four years ago.
Almost even with the last U.S. runner when he got the baton for the anchor leg of the 4×100 meters, Bolt steadily pulled away down the stretch, gritting his teeth and leaning at the line to cap his perfect Summer Games by leading Jamaica to the title in a world-record 36.84 seconds Saturday night.
After crossing the line, Bolt pleaded with an official to let him keep the yellow baton he was clutching. But the answer was “No,” and Bolt handed it over while some nearby spectators booed. About 40 minutes later, that same official approached Bolt and returned the stick. Bolt responded with a bow of thanks and a chuckle, kissed the baton — and then asked his teammates to autograph it.
One more possession to help him remember his week at 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium, where any mention of Bolt’s name drew raucous cheers, countless camera flashes and chants of “Usain!” or “We want Bolt!”
“It’s amazing. It’s been wonderful,” Bolt said in an interview shown on the scoreboard.
Addressing the spectators, he said: “You guys are wonderful. Thanks for the support. I love you guys.”
Bolt added the relay gold to the ones he earned in the 100 in 9.63 seconds last Sunday — the second-fastest time in history — and the 200 in 19.32 on Thursday. The runner-up in both individual sprints, Bolt’s pal and training partner Yohan Blake, ran the third leg of the relay, following Nesta Carter and Michael Frater.
The U.S. quartet of Trell Kimmons, 100 bronze medalist Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey got the silver in 37.04, equaling the old record that Bolt helped set at last year’s world championships. Trinidad &Tobago took the bronze in 38.12. Canada, which was third across the line, was disqualified for running outside its lane, and its appeal was rejected.
As Blake and Gay rounded the race’s final curve, they were pretty much in sync, stride for stride.
But when that duo was done, the relay came down to Bolt vs. Bailey, who was fifth in the 100 meters in 9.88.
Really not a fair matchup.
After transferring the baton from his left hand to his right, the 6-foot-5 Bolt churned up the track with his long-as-can-be strides, and Bailey had no chance to keep up.
“Wow,” Bailey said. “He’s a monster.”
Bolt kept adding to his lead and actually spared his now-customary showboating at the finish, instead driving through the line on a windy, chilly night (with the temperature hovering around 60 degrees (15 C), he was wearing black gloves and a black wool cap before the race).
“He was basically the difference in the race. It was even all the way around,” Gay said. “When he got the stick, there was nothing we could do about it.”
After seeing the record time, Bolt began to celebrate, something he relishes as much as running, it seems.
He posed with Blake, each doing a signature pose. Bolt did his “To the World” move, where he leans back and points to the sky. Blake curled his hands as if they were claws while making a scary face to match the nickname Bolt gave him, “The Beast.”
After removing his spikes, Bolt danced barefoot to the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” as it played on the arena’s loudspeakers. Later, wearing his latest gold medal, Bolt waved his fingers toward the stands, trying to get fans to do the wave. And they did, of course.
Loud as the appreciation of Bolt was, it wasn’t as deafening as the roar earlier in the evening for British runner Mo Farah, who won the 5,000 meters in 13 minutes, 41.66 seconds to add that gold to last Saturday’s in the 10,000.
In his own bit of Boltesque showmanship, Farah plopped down on his back and did a few situps afterward.
On the last night of track and field action at the stadium — the final event, the men’s marathon, will be run through the city’s streets Sunday morning — other golds went to the United States in the women’s 4×400-meter relay; Anna Chicherova of Russia in the women’s high jump; Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago in the men’s javelin; and Mariya Savinova of Russia in the women’s 800, with Caster Semenya of South Africa getting the silver three years after being forced to take gender tests.
The U.S. victory in the 4×400 allowed Allyson Felix to collect her third gold medal, after those in the women’s 200 and the 4×100 relay. She’s the first American woman with three track golds at a single Olympics since 1988, when Florence Griffith-Joyner won the 100, 200 and 4×100 relay.
“To have all this happen,” Felix said, “to really accomplish every goal that I set out, is such a blessing.”
Imagine how Bolt feels.
He’ll turn 26 on Aug. 21, and already has cast doubt on whether he’ll show up for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. As it is, he’s a perfect 6 for 6 in Olympic finals for his career, getting gold every time — and setting four world records in the process. His only loss at a Summer Games came as a teenager in a 200-meter qualifying heat in Athens eight years ago.
Bolt came to London with the stated goal of becoming a “living legend,” something he was ready to declare after his victory in the 200. Before Saturday’s race, the head of track and field’s governing body, Lamine Diack, agreed, saying the sprinter had “entered the legendary.”
There’s a pretty good case to be made for it.
In the century-plus history of the modern Olympics, no man had set world records while winning the 100, 200 and 4×100 relay — until Bolt did it in Beijing.
None had won the 200 meters twice, let alone completed a 100-200 double twice — until Bolt did so in 2008 and 2012.
Now he’s added a second consecutive sprint relay title, too. And Jamaica did it without Asafa Powell, who held the 100 world record from 2005 until Bolt claimed it in 2008 and was the anchor on the Jamaican team that won the 4×100 four years ago. Powell injured his groin and pulled up during the 100 in London on Sunday night.
No matter. The team drafted a pretty decent guy to take his place on the final leg.
And to think: Bolt arrived in London to a chorus of questions.
Was he completely healthy? Was he still as fast as the guy who set the world records of 9.58 for the 100, and 19.19 for the 200, at the world championships three years ago? And, most of all, having lost twice to Blake at the Jamaican Olympic trials, could Bolt still claim to be the best in the world if he wasn’t even the best in his own country?
Three events — and three gold medals — provided all the answers.