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Written by: Nick Mulvenney
On August 19, 2016, Usain Bolt drew down the curtain on his brilliant Olympic career by securing a sweep of the sprint titles for a third successive Games when Jamaica successfully defended the 4×100 meters relay crown in Rio.
Two days shy of his 30th birthday, Usain Bolt anchored his country to victory in 37.27 seconds so adding the relay crown to the 100 and 200 meters titles he has owned since exploding onto the Olympic stage in Beijing in 2008.
He will depart that stage never having tasted defeat in a final, his nine gold medals a joint record in athletics with Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi and American sprinter and long jumper Carl Lewis.
In the eight years since Beijing, the 11-times world champion has become one of the best known sportsmen on the planet and with the ‘triple-triple’ has a legitimate claim to the title of greatest Olympic track and field athlete ever.
There has never been any doubt in the Jamaican’s own mind.
“There you go, I am the greatest. I’ve worked hard every Olympics to win three gold medals… so I’m just happy that I’ve accomplished so much,” Bolt told reporters.
“It’s a relief but I’m also sad that I have to leave. This is my last one… It’s just so many special feelings I’m feeling.”
There is no doubt that Bolt has transformed his sport, if only by almost single-handedly displacing the United States as the superpower of men’s sprinting.
It was only almost single-handedly, though, as his three Olympic relay titles, two in world record times, always required the input of his fellow Jamaican speedsters.
Again on that Friday, former world record holder Asafa Powell, Bolt’s training partner Yohan Blake and Nickel Ashmeade gave the double sprint world record holder the lead at the final exchange, albeit an extremely slim one.
That was always going to be enough for Bolt in his final Olympic race, however, and he powered down the straight to finish five meters clear of Japan’s Aska Cambridge.
“I told the guys, ‘don’t give me too much work to do, make it easy’,” Bolt said.
“And they did exactly that, I had no work to do, just to run to the line.”