Bolt beats Gatlin again as DeGrasse arrives on 100m stage

The men's 100m final in Rio shows the past, present, and future of the world's ultimate sports title
Usain Bolt Degrasse Usain Bolt celebrates with his classic 'lightning bolt' pose after winning the 100m Worlds in 2009 in Greece. Last night, he struck the pose again after claiming an incredible third consecutive Olympic gold in the 100m. (© Vasilis Ververidis |


It's something that we've all heard — and said — at some point in our lives, if not many. We run toward things in excitement. We run away from things in fear. We run for exercise. We run just for fun.

And we run because we love feeling fast.

Maybe that's why the 100m sprint is so fascinating to so many people. Unlike other sports, there's no real mystery. It's the one of simplest things in the world. On your mark, get set, GO! ...and they're off. Just like you or me. Except when you watch Olympians run, you are watching people who would make our version of running seem like a gentle jog.

And then there's Usain Bolt. A man who makes Olympians seem like they're stuck in mud.

The fastest man of all time

On Sunday, the Jamaican superstar proved that when it comes to speed, he is untouchable. He owns both the Olympic record (9.63 sec) and the World record (9.58 sec). And now he is the first man to win three consecutive golds in the 100m. In Rio, he ran a relatively tame 9.81 seconds. But it still wasn't even close. While all of the other sprinters around him strained and lunged forward to the finish line, he crossed upright, quickly breaking into a large grin and beating his arm on his chest. He's simply that good a runner. With Bolt, it's not just that he's fast. It's that he runs like a superhero — free and joyously — not like someone pushing himself to the limit.

The end of a rivalry

Coming in second was long time rival Justin Gatlin of the United States. He led the race quickly with an exceptional start. But as the magical Bolt always does, he closed the gap in the final 40 metres, leaving Gatlin to claim silver in 9.89 seconds. Gatlin was actually booed before the start of the final. That's partly about the crowd's love of Bolt and partly about Gatlin's checkered past.

In 2001 and again in 2006, Gatlin was banned from the sport for doping. But as the winner of the 2004 gold in Athens, this was his chance to pull even with Bolt by winning two of the last four Olympic 100m. By the end of the race, though, there could be no doubt. As both men near the end of their professional careers (each has said this will likely be their last Olympics), Bolt is the superior sprinter of their time. And for now, all time.

DeGrasse is greener

As for the future, it was there both nipping at Gatlin's heels and later in Bolt's arms. Canadian Andre DeGrasse won bronze in 9.91 seconds. Degrasse has only been racing for four years. He picked up sprinting by accident when he accepted a track friend's challenge to race in a practice at York University in Toronto. Since then, the young athlete has become the hottest young runner on the planet. He has a multi-million dollar contract with Puma, just like Bolt. And most importantly, Bolt is firmly in his corner.

Bolt and DeGrasse ran next to each other both in their semifinal heat and then again in the final. All night, the pair exchanged playful pats on the back and fists bumps. After the final was over, they embraced while Bolt repeatedly said of DeGrasse, "Watch him! Watch him!" At only 21 years old, Degrasse could perhaps compete in the next three Olympics. He will get stronger and smarter. Once Bolt and Gatlin retire, will he handle the pressure of being the favourite? As always with the 100m, the world will be watching.

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