RIO DE JANEIRO — Usain Bolt told his Jamaica teammates he would “beat them up” if they failed to help him achieve his career target of nine Olympic golds in Friday’s 4×100-meter relay.
Bolt was almost certainly joking, but fortunately the prospect of any uncharacteristic acts of violence was taken completely out of the equation.
Jamiaca won in a time of 37.27 seconds, with Japan in second and Canada third after the United States was disqualified for an exchange zone infraction.
“I told the guys if it didn’t happen tonight I would beat them up,” said Bolt, who now calls time on his Olympic career having won golds in the 100, 200 and relay at three consecutive Games.
Asafa Powell, the former world-record holder but restricted to relay duty this time, kicked things off strongly, against American lead-off Mike Rodgers. Yohan Blake, fourth in the individual 100 and the silver medalist from 2012, matched up with Justin Gatlin and kept things even.
The third leg was key. Nickel Ashmeade had a disappointing Olympics under his own steam, but was pivotal. A weak link? Certainly not. Ashmeade rounded the top turn effortlessly and Tyson Gay, on his inside for the Americans, was unable to prevent him opening a small gap.
And then it was done. No way was the great man going to let it slip, not in his final race, not with destiny beckoning at the tips of those golden feet. You would have liked his chances of running down Trayvon Bromell with a five-meter deficit. A slight advantage? Forget about it.
Bolt surged down the track like he has done so many times before, powering his way into Olympic history — and further into greatness.
“I am proud of myself and I have to say thanks to the guys,” Bolt said. “The pressure is real. I look at it as accomplishment. I live for these moments, it is beautiful and I came through. I’ll go home, stay up late tonight talking and having fun. It is not real. It is a brilliant feeling. I am the greatest.”
Jamaica was too strong and victory was set up when Blake and Ashmeade first kept pace with and then pulled slightly away from Gatlin and Gay. Bolt had far too much for Bromell in the home straight.
“It was never in doubt,” Powell said. “We went out there very confident. We are a team and we love competing on the track. I love running with these guys. We are here to relax, we are very confident and we just want to get the stick in that man’s hands.”
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