Rio roars for Bolt
Locals roar as he makes history, along with South Africa's van Niekerk
Someone asked if Usain Bolt had just become bigger than Bob Marley.
Another wondered what Wayde van Niekerk would have been thinking.
At that moment, Justin Gatlin almost certainly would have realised he would only ever see the back of the big man. With the 200m and 4x100m to come.
On Sunday night (yesterday morning, Singapore time) here at the Olympic Stadium in Rio, there was a Bolt into the history books, as the Jamaican superstar tore down the straight to become the first man to win a third straight 100m gold medal.
Athletics' biggest showman froze the clock at 9.81 seconds, easily leaving behind American Gatlin (9.89) and Andre De Grasse (9.91), the Canadian who collected bronze.
As the clock ticked down to the 2016 Olympics, Bolt promised he would do it and, like all unique athletes, he delivered.
"It wasn't perfect, but I got it done," the 29-year-old said, after his win. "Nobody else has done it or even attempted it."
In the first week of the Games, Michael Phelps was a son of Rio, hailed like a hero, roared on whenever he raced at the Olympic Aquatics Centre.
Sports-loving Brazilians adore greatness, it is why they revere Garrincha, Ayrton Senna, Pele and Muhammad Ali and, with Phelps done here, it is why they now embrace Bolt. Like one of their own.
Every time he was flashed on the giant screen warming up in the adjacent facility, the crowd in the stadium roared.
It got louder when he appeared for the semi-finals. There was a false start but he was not flustered, and he won to take his place in the final.
How they roared.
Then came van Niekerk's run for the ages yesterday, as the 24-year-old South African propelled himself into the sporting stratosphere when he broke the great Michael Johnson's 17-year-old 400m world record of 43.18sec, winning gold in 43.03.
No one could quite believe it, because no one felt it was possible.
Van Niekerk's expression suggested he was in shock, before the unmistakable hush of uncertainty around the stadium finally erupted in full-throated celebration over the greatest feat yet, at the venue.
I heard someone say, "Now, let's see Bolt top that".
They roared, white light flashed around the stadium when he took off but even Bolt could not upstage the South African's performance, although he did seal his place as the best 100m sprinter in the history of the event.
Draped in the Jamaican flag, he thrilled the crowd in a one-lap celebration, there was that unique lightning-bolt pose, before he chased after van Niekerk doing his rounds in the mixed zone, to embrace the new track sensation.
Bolt said later that van Niekerk would soon be the face of the sport. But, not yet.
He said he wanted to go faster in the 100m, and has vowed to do something special in the 200m.
And we all know about Bolt and his promises.
He's going for an unprecedented "triple-triple".
Maybe he's not quite as influential as Marley but, after all the turmoil surrounding athletics, Bolt's humming Three Little Birds, in his quest to make us feel good about the sport again.
"Don't worry, about a thing, 'cos every little thing, is gonna' be alright'."
And in van Niekerk, he's found a partner.
HOW THE RACE WENT:
AT 30-METRE MARK
Justin Gatlin bursts off the blocks, emerging as the early pace-setter. The bigger Bolt, with the second-slowest reaction time of 0.155sec, stays with the pack.
AT 60-METRE MARK
As Bolt gains momentum, he goes level with Gatlin near the 60-metre mark and begins to pull away.
AT 100-METRE MARK
Gatlin is no match as Bolt strides away. The Jamaican crosses the line first, edging out the American by 0.08sec.
HOW THEY FINISHED:
Trayvon Bromell 10.06 (8th) (USA)
Akani Simbine 9.94 (5th) (South Africa)
Justin Gatlin 9.89 (2nd) (USA)
Jimmy Vicaut 10.04 (7th) (France)
Usain Bolt 9.81 (1st) (Jamaica)
Andre DeGrasse 9.91 (3rd) (Canada)
Ben Youssef Meite 9.96 (6th) (Ivory Coast)
Yohan Blake 9.93 (4th) (Jamaica)
BOLT’S 100M TIMES
9.69 (BEIJING 2008)
9.58 (2009 WORLD C’SHIPS) - World record
9.63 (LONDON 2012) - Olympic record
9.77 (2013 WORLD C’SHIPS)
9.79 (2015 WORLD C’SHIPS)
9.81 (RIO 2016)
Usain eyes 'immortality'
Usain Bolt stormed past his rivals to claim a historic third straight Olympic 100 metres title yesterday morning (Singapore time) and declared himself confident of becoming an "immortal" by the end of the Rio Games.
Hot on the heels of a sensational 400m world record by South African Wayde van Niekerk, the Jamaican surged past American rival Justin Gatlin to take the most prized Olympic gold in 9.81 seconds.
With one title in the bag, Bolt celebrated and turned his attention to completing the 100m, 200m and 4x100m gold medal sweep at three consecutive Olympics.
"Somebody said I can become immortal. Two more medals to go and I can sign off. Immortal," said Bolt, who has insisted that this will be his last Olympics.
Bolt said he had been "shocked" at the jeers directed at Gatlin, who has twiced been banned for doping, but insisted he had focused on the victory that left him out alone in the 120-year history of Olympic sprinting.
Although way short of his 9.58-sec world record, Bolt was happy with the performance.
He started slowly but reeled in the fast-starting Gatlin within 70 metres and eased up, thumping his chest as he crossed the line. Canada's Andre de Grasse took bronze.
"It was brilliant. I didn't go so fast, but I'm so happy I won," he said.
Gatlin, meanwhile, dismissed the booing by fans as the two-time doping offender insisted he has the respect of his peers.
"I haven't really focused on the boos, you have to dial that kind of stuff out," said the American, who had been looking to become the oldest man to win the Olympic title.
"At the end of the day, you hear everything, but you have to tune that kind of stuff out.
"There's a lot of Usain Bolt fans, a lot of Jamaican fans but they don't know me, they don't know Justin.
"I work very hard and I have the respect of my competitors.
"Going into the call room, (bronze medallist) Andre de Grasse, Trayvon (Bromell), we wished each other well - even Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt himself.
"To be able to have the respect of my rivals who I line up with, that's all I really care about." - AFP.
"Somebody said I can become immortal. Two more medals to go and I can sign off. Immortal."
- Usain Bolt