Usain Bolt put an exclamation point on his performance at the London Olympics with another gold medal and another world record.
Running the anchor leg in the men's 4x100-meter relay, Bolt helped the Jamaican team win the gold medal in 36.84 seconds, a new world record. Just days after declaring himself "the greatest athlete to live," the charismatic 25-year-old sprinter went back to work bolstering his argument.
Bolt received the baton from teammate Yohan Blake and then left behind Ryan Bailey of the United States to reach the finish line ahead of the field. The United States won the silver in 37.04 seconds, a new national record. Canada finished the race third but was disqualified, giving the bronze to Trinidad and Tobago.
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Nesta Carter ran the opening leg for Jamaica, followed by Michael Frater. Neither sprinter had previously competed during the London Games. The two runners who next carried the baton for Jamaica, however, have made frequent appearances on the medal stand: Blake and Bolt.
Blake finished runner-up to Bolt in the 100 meters and 200 meters before running up behind him during the relay with the baton. After a clean transition, Bolt blew open what had been a tight race between the U.S. runners and Jamaica.
"I knew it was over when I saw Yohan [Blake] catching Tyson Gay," Bolt told reporters after the race. "I knew it was over because I knew [Ryan] Bailey could not outrun me on the straight."
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Trell Kimmons led off for the U.S. team, making his first appearance of the Games. He was followed by Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay, who both finished behind Bolt and Blake in the 100. When Gay passed the baton to Bailey, the United States was running neck and neck with Jamaica but the long strides of the 6'5" Bolt opened up a gap along that final straightaway. The U.S. time of 37.04 seconds matches the previous world record set by Jamaica at the last Olympics, a mark smashed by Jamaica in 2012. In 2008, Bolt ran the third leg as the quartet of Jamaican sprinters set that standard.
"I think there's a possibility," Bolt said before the relay about the chance of setting a new record. "But you can never really say it, because it's a relay and there's a baton. You never know. But for me, we're going to go out, enjoy ourselves, run fast as possible. It would be a good way to close the show again."
While there remains another day of events in London and several more medals are still to be awarded, Bolt certainly ended his portion of the show in style. Having won gold in the 100 meters, 200 meters and the 4x100-meter relay in London, Bolt has pulled off an unprecedented double triple, successfully defending each of the three gold medals that he won at the Beijing Games in 2008. Given the spotlight on Bolt in London and the doubts swirling around him upon his arrival, Bolt's 2012 performance may be even more impressive than his 2008 effort when he established (or helped establish, in the case of the relay) three world records.
In his latest 100-meter triumph, Bolt got under his Beijing time (but not his 2009 world record) to establish a new Olympic record. In the 4x100-meter relay on Saturday, Bolt helped smashed the world record that he'd helped set in 2008. And, in the 200 meter, Bolt pressed his finger to his lips as he breezed across the finish line, delivering a message to those who thought he couldn't possibly make history again.
"That was for all that people that doubted me, all the people that was talking all kinds of stuff that I wasn't going to do it, I was going to be beaten," Bolt said after holding off Blake in the 200 final. "I was just telling them: You can stop talking now, because I am a legend."
After the 4x100-meter relay, Bailey wasn't calling Bolt a "legend" but he was nonetheless awestruck -- and calling him something else.
"Wow. He's a monster," Bailey told The Associated Press. "He's a monster."
Whether he's a legend or a monster, Bolt had to vanquish a "Beast" to cement his legacy. Like U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, Bolt's sternest challenge came from a countryman. Nicknamed "The Beast," Blake defeated Bolt in the 100 and 200 meters at the Jamaican Olympic trials. These losses and murky reports of back and hamstring injuries had many doubting that he'd be able to equal his medal haul from Beijing. But Bolt shed doubters during the course of the Games as easily as he outpaced Bailey in his final event. As evidenced by joyous victory poses and interactions with the fans, Bolt took to the spotlight so readily that Paul Heyward of The Telegraph couldn't help but compare him to Muhammad Ali.
"I came here to London to become a legend, and I am a legend, and I wanted to thank them for supporting me," Bolt told reporters, via AP, after the relay, describing his wave to the crowd.
With quotes like this coming in greater numbers than his gold medals, Heyward wasn't alone in making such comparisons as Bolt's proclamations about his own greatness evoked the bygone boasts of a certain American boxer who won gold at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
Although he may have since changed his mind, IOC President Jaques Rogge wasn't quite ready to declare Bolt a "legend" in the hours before the 200 meters final.
"Let him participate in three, four games, and he can be a legend," Rogge said. "Already he's an icon."
After winning gold in the relay, Bolt wondered if Rogge was ready to reassess his status.
"Next time you see him, ask him what else I have to do to be a legend," Bolt requested of the media, according to Paul Kelso of the Daily Telegraph.