Usain Bolt, the only man to successfully defend the 100- and 200-meter titles at an Olympics, went three for three by anchoring his Jamaican team to a world-record 400-meter relay gold medal in London.
The defending champions cruised to victory in 36.84 seconds on the Olympic Stadium track. The U.S. came in second, matching the old world-record time of 37.04. Trinidad & Tobago was third in 38.12 after Canada was disqualified.
Bolt ran the last 100-meter leg, after teammates Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Yohan Blake.
“It is always a beautiful thing to end on this note,” Bolt said in a televised trackside interview. “It is a wonderful feeling. It was a great Olympics and I am happy. I wish we could have gone faster, but I guess we leave room for improvement.”
Jamaica has dominated the event since winning the 2008 Olympics with a world record. It took the world title in Berlin in 2009, and improved its mark to 37.04 seconds at last year’s championships in Daegu, South Korea.
The Jamaicans competed today without Asafa Powell, who is out for the season after injuring his groin in the 100-meter final.
It turned out they didn’t need the former 100-meter world record-holder. Bolt drew even with the U.S.’s Ryan Bailey before storming down the home straight and leaning across the finish line.
Bolt, who said before the race that a world record was possible, led the crowd in a wave that drew chants of “Bolt, Bolt, Bolt” as he returned to the track for the medals ceremony.
For the Americans, just getting to the finish line had proven difficult in recent times.
The U.S. quartet, which shattered a 20-year-old national record yesterday in qualifying for the final, last won the 400-meter relay at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. In 2004, the Americans were upset by the British team, then failed to finish their heat in Beijing in 2008.
A disqualification came for the U.S. at the world championships in 2009. In Daegu last year, American sprinter Darvis Patton was obstructed at the last changeover.
The second-place finish ended Tyson Gay’s wait for an Olympic medal. He ran the third leg on the silver-medal squad.
The 29-year-old American, the second-fastest man in the world all-time behind Bolt, left the track in tears after placing fourth in the 100-meter final a week ago. Gay was hurt in Beijing and didn’t make the final of the 100 meters, and it was his failed baton pass with Patton that resulted in the U.S. failing to complete its heat four years ago.
“I really feel the missing piece of my heart is an Olympic medal,” Gay said on the eve of the games.
Justin Gatlin, who took bronze in the 100 meters behind Bolt and Blake, praised Gay’s efforts, which had the U.S. marginally ahead before the final leg.
“There was energy coming from the blocks and Tyson did a great job on the third,” Gatlin said. “We did it, we did a great job and next year we’re going to do an even better race.”
Two days ago, Bolt won the 200-meter gold medal to complete a historic sweep of the track sprints that the Jamaican runner said made him a sports legend.
He became the only man to successfully defend both the 100-and 200-meter titles at an Olympics, and the first runner to retain two titles since Finland’s Lasse Viren won the 5,000- and 10,000-meters at Montreal in 1976. Bolt set an Olympic record of
9.63 seconds when he cruised to his 100-meter victory on Aug. 5.
Apart from Bolt, only eight men have completed the 100- and 200-meter sweep at one Olympics. Of those, only Carl Lewis of the U.S. successfully defended the gold medal in the shorter race.