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Three-peat! Usain Bolt beats Justin Gatlin to win his third 100m gold

The fastest man on the planet just did it again.

Rio Olympics Athletics Source: Morry Gash

– Niall Kelly reports from the Olympic Stadium, Rio de Janeiro

SILENCE.

THE STARTER’S gun.

And then Bolt.

A week shy of his 30th birthday, Usain Bolt proved that he is still the fastest man on the planet and entered the history books as the first to win three straight Olympic 100m titles.

The Jamaican overcame a slow start to produce his best run of the season when it mattered most, running 9.81 to clinch another gold and the first leg of what could be an unprecedented sprint triple-triple.

America’s Justin Gatlin was second in 9.89 with Andre de Grasse of Canada taking bronze in 9.91, his second personal best of the night.

But, inevitably, this was about one man and one man only.

Usain Bolt on his way to winning the 100m Final Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Rio Olympic Games 2016 - Day Nine Source: David J. Phillip

Bolt had earlier put to bed any lingering fears about the hamstring injury that disrupted his preparations for the Rio Games. Looking left and right at those who simply couldn’t keep up with him in the second semi-final, he jogged to the line to win in 9.86 seconds.

He was ready and he knew it. Before the starter called them into position for the final a little over an hour later, he walked the middle of the track and waved to the Olympic Stadium crowd, chants of ‘BOLT! BOLT! BOLT!’ ringing in his ears.

For the briefest moment, it all looked to be a little bit premature. Gatlin, who has twice served doping bans only to return to the sport faster than ever at the age of 34, was booed by the Brazilian crowd as he stepped up to the line. He burst from the starting blocks; Bolt, as is so often is the case, was slow to get away behind his fierce rival.

But once he hit his stride, the gap to Gatlin out in front narrowed and narrowed until, 20 metres or so from the line, the champion hit the front.

Rio Olympic Games 2016 - Day Nine Source: Mark Baker

Rio Olympic Games 2016 - Day Nine Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

From there, it was a story that that we have seen so many times before. Bolt lengthened his stride and eased clear, stealing a look at the stadium clock, thumping his chest in celebration before he had even crossed the finish line.

This wasn’t Bolt’s best run — it was both the slowest and the closest of his three 100m wins — but it didn’t need to be. Still, he was comfortable even if the 0.08 second gap back to Gatlin in second place didn’t quite reflect that.

For the American, winner in Athens 12 years ago, it was a first Olympic silver in the race to go with his bronze medals from Beijing and London and complete the set.

De Grasse, who started the evening with a PB of 9.92 and then matched that in the semi-finals, shaved one-hundredth of a second of the time to make sure of the bronze, edging out Bolt’s team-mate Yohan Blake who ran a season’s best of his own, 9.93, in fourth.

Rio Olympic Games 2016 - Day Nine Source: Gregory Bull

Rio Olympic Games 2016 - Day Nine Source: Morry Gash

“Jamaica Stand Up!!! This for you my people,” his official account tweeted while the man himself was still out on his lengthy lap of honour, soaking up the adulation of the crowd, some of whom stayed behind late into the Brazilian night in the hope of catching a second glimpse of their idol.

All eyes will now turn to Thursday’s 200m final, and Friday’s 4x100m relay. If this is to be Usain Bolt’s grand farewell, he’s ready to go out with a bang.

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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