Usain Bolt is one win away from completing an unprecedented double that he said will bring him sprinting immortality.
Bolt jogged over the finish line last night at the Olympic Stadium in London in a time of 20.18 seconds to qualify for the 200-meter final. He said he planned it that way.
“You can’t work too hard, you’ve got the finals,” Bolt told reporters. “That was the aim. You can’t push too hard.”
The 25-year-old Jamaican said after running an Olympic record 9.63 to defend his 100-meter title that he also needed to retain the 200-meter crown to become “a legend.” Victory tonight would make him the first man to take gold in the 100 and 200 meters at consecutive games.
Bolt, one of the most recognized athletes in the world, is the only person to have run below 9.60 in the 100 meters and under 19.20 in the 200 meters. He broke his own world records in the 100 and 200 meters at the 2009 world championships in Berlin.
The 6-foot-5 Bolt, who only took up the 100 meters as speed work to prepare for the longer sprint, may not have things all his own way in his favorite event.
Yohan Blake, the silver medalist in the 100 meters, beat Bolt in the Jamaican 200-meter trials, raising the prospect that he could shock his training partner at the Olympics. Blake slowed to win his 200 semifinal in 20.01.
“The race was a walk in the park,” said the 22-year-old, whose 19.26 at a meet in Brussels on Sept. 16 is the second fastest all time, 0.07 slower than Bolt’s world record.
Commentators including former 100-meter Olympic champion Maurice Greene said they favored Blake over Bolt in the shorter sprint.
In the event, Bolt surged through to win comfortably, even though he gritted his teeth and leaned over the line, something he didn’t do when winning in 2008.
“That’s how people are,” Bolt said. “They’re always doubting a champion. But that’s why I’m here, to cement my legendary status. I’m focused and I’m ready.”
The sprinter may get a workout with 19-time English soccer club Manchester United, Yahoo Sports reported. Bolt is a supporter of the team, and told journalists that he thinks he could play for United.
Wallace Spearmon of the U.S., France’s Christophe Lemaitre and Churandy Martina, who lost the 200-meter silver medal in Beijing after being disqualified for stepping out of his lane, also advanced to the eight-man final.
After last night’s men’s 200-meter semifinals, Allyson Felix, 26, of the U.S. claimed gold in the women’s event.
The three-time world champion, the Olympic silver medalist in 2004 and 2008, clocked 21.88 to beat 100-meter champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who got silver, and Carmelita Jeter of the U.S., who took bronze. Two-time defending champion Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica finished out of the medals.
Also last night, Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson gave the U.S. a 1-2 finish in the men’s 110-meter hurdles. Merritt, 27, won in 12.92 seconds, with Richardson crossing the line in 13.04. Hansle Parchment of Jamaica took bronze in 13.12.
Brittney Reese won the women’s long jump gold, only the second American to do so in 24 years. Two-time world champion Reese, 25, won with a leap of 7.12 meters (23 feet), the best since the 1996 games. Elena Sokolova of Russia took silver and American Janay Deloach got bronze.
Natalya Antyukh, a 31-year-old Russian, won the 400-meter hurdles in 52.70, the fastest time this year. Lashinda Demus of the U.S. came second, ahead of Czech Zuzana Hejnova.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at email@example.com