Usain Bolt equalled the record for the number of world golds won when he anchored the Jamaican 4x100m relay team to victory at the World Athletics Championships yesterday.
It was the Jamaican’s eighth world gold medal after winning the 100 and 200m at the Berlin worlds in 2009, the 200m in Daegu in 2011, the 100 and 200m in Moscow this week, as well as golds as part of the winning Jamaican 4x100m relay squads in both 2009, 2011 and now 2013. It means Bolt has joined American women’s 200m specialist Allyson Felix, and retired US track stars Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson who, including relays, have all won eight world championship gold medals.
The quartet of individual 100m bronze medallist Nesta Carter, Kemar Bailey-Cole, Nickel Ashmeade and Bolt clocked 37.36sec in the race at a packed Luzhniki Stadium. It capped another remarkable week for Bolt, who first reclaimed his world 100m title in Moscow in emphatic style, clocking a season’s best 9.77sec in heavy rain. He then powered to a third successive world 200m title, destroying the field to finish in 19.66sec.
But the 26-year-old, who is also world record holder in both the 100 and 200m, has insisted that that record counted for nothing. Instead Bolt stated after his 200m victory that his aim was to defend his Olympic sprint titles at the 2016 Rio Games, having won an unprecedented three golds (100, 200, 4x100m relay) in both the Beijing Games in 2008 and in London last year.
The relay, however, was far from plain sailing in the battle with traditional rivals the United States, who claimed silver in 37.56, and Britain, who were initially credited with bronze before being disqualified for going past the changeover area during a baton handover.
Canada were installed as bronze medallists in 37.92sec. Starting in lane four, Carter ran the first leg but made no ground up on British teenager Adam Gemili on his outside. A sharp opening leg from American Charles Silmon in lane three saw Mike Rodgers explode into his second leg, drawing level with Jamaican Kemar Bailey-Cole.
Bailey-Cole’s baton passover to Ashmeade, fifth in the 100m final, went as planned and the latter did well to claw back some of the metres lost.
Then came disaster for the United States, as Rakieem Salaam fluffed his handover to anchorman Justin Gatlin, the 100m silver medallist’s right foot straying five times into the Jamaican lane as he struggled to take control of the baton.
That error handed Bolt, who had a smooth handover from Ashmeade, just the space he needed to unfold his towering frame into an explosive final leg. There was no easing up from the Jamaican sprint legend, teeth gritted, arms and legs pumping as he strove for the finish line with a savage dip.