In My Opinion

Sanya Richard-Ross achieves ‘dream,’ Usain Bolt dazzles again

 

lrobertson@miamiherald.com

Usain Bolt, undefeated and unparalleled as an Olympian, whisked Jamaica’s 400-meter relay team to the once-unthinkable world-record time of 36.84 seconds in his London finale.

Bolt won his third gold medal of his second Olympics to go with the three he won four years ago in Beijing. Call it a double-triple, or unprecedented. In Olympic finals, he is 6-0 and has set four world records.

In the last 100 meters of the last event on the Olympic Stadium track Saturday night, Bolt and American Ryan Bailey grasped their batons almost simultaneously as they took off down the home stretch. Within three strides, Bolt was blasting into the lead. Spectators rose as they kept an eye on the clock. Bolt looked light on his long legs, but he was pushing hard and gritting his teeth when he leaned across the line — for a change. He saw the time and knew he had delivered.

“A wonderful end to a wonderful week,” he said. “What else do I need to do to prove myself as a legend?”

Over a span of seven days, three finals and 38 seconds, Bolt accomplished everything he had promised in his quest to become “a living legend,” and it wasn’t close. But when he asked an official if he could keep the yellow baton as a memento, he was told no, or he would be disqualified. Bolt handed it over, got it back later as he bowed to the official and had it autographed by his teammates.

“I like to break barriers,” he said. “It sets you off from other people.”

On a night of multiple medal-winning, Sanya Richards-Ross won her second gold, running the last leg of the 1,600-meter relay with the same smooth strength she showed in the open 400 meters. The United States finished in 3:16.87, almost four seconds ahead of Russia in second and Jamaica in third.

“Two golds — that’s what I’ve always dreamed of,” said Richards-Ross, a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale. “I call it the sprinkles, because winning the 400 was my cake and icing.”

“I felt like I was running a victory lap they gave me such a big lead,” added Richards-Ross, whose dynamic comeback leg in 2008 enabled the U.S. to beat Russia. “It was nice to be able to prance around the track one more time.”

Allyson Felix, who ran the fastest split of the field on her 47.8-second leg, won her third gold, the first U.S. woman to do so since Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988.

Felix won each at a different distance — the open 200, the 400 relay and the 1,600 relay.

Great Britain’s Mo Farah added a gold in the 5,000 meters a week after winning the 10,000.

“My wife is expecting twins, and I didn’t want to have a gold medal for one and the other was left out,” Farah said.

Farah was patient during the first two-thirds of a tactical, nerve-racking race.

He moved to the front with two laps to go, then held on as first Kenya’s Thomas Longosiwa and then Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel challenged him.

Even after racing 12 miles in his events, he had enough left to kick through a 52.94-second last lap. He kissed his hands and slapped his bald head as he crossed the line, and 80,000 spectators roared at maximum volume for the Somali-born, London-raised Farah.

His time of 13:41.66 was the slowest winning time since 1968.

Farah became the seventh man to win the long-distance double at the Olympics, placing his name on the list with Emil Zatopek and Lasse Viren, and 59 years after Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile, Farah ran his last mile in exactly four minutes.

“It sounded like a football match when someone scores a goal,” said Farah, who trains in Oregon under Alberto Salazar.

The cat-and-mouse game of the 5,000 gave way to the 400 relay, where precision is as important as acceleration on the flying starts.

Jamaica’s Yohan Blake made up his team’s slight deficit on a blistering third leg against Tyson Gay.

U.S. men’s coach Andrew Valmon said the team selected Bailey to run the last leg because he is as tall as Bolt, who is 6-5.

“He’s our Bolt,” Valmon said.

Bailey demurred, saying, “I’m Ryan Bailey.”

Nesta Carter led off for Jamaica against American Trell Kimmons, and Michael Frater, a Boyd Anderson High graduate, ran Jamaica’s second leg against Justin Gatlin.

“It was even all the way around,” Gay said. “When Bolt got the stick, there was nothing we could do about it.”

The U.S. finished in 37.04.

“We put on a great show and broke our American record twice,” Gatlin said. “To leave with a 37.04 — which was the world record last year — proves we are getting our act back.”

Gatlin, the bronze medalist in the men’s 100, wanted to win a medal for Gay, who was fourth in the 100 and distraught afterward.

“I was very upset because I was missing something in my heart with no Olympic medals,” Gay said. “This is a blessing and fills that spot in my heart.”

Bolt didn’t do much of his usual clowning before the race, but during Jamaica’s victory lap, he struck the archer’s pose that is the logo on his clothing line. He embraced fans. He took off his spikes and danced to the Eurthymics’ Sweet Dreams ( Are Made of This).

Blake, nicknamed “The Beast,” made scary faces and said the Jamaicans had dropped from space and were not human.

“To run 36 is not normal,” agreed Carter.

Bolt, 25, was noncommittal about the 2016 Games, but when asked what he would be doing in 10 years, he said: “Hopefully, just chillin’ somewhere. I like to always be relaxing. I’ll make myself some new goals at the end of the season.”

The U.S. women ran the fifth-fastest time in history. DeeDee Trotter, wearing her usual sparkly “war paint,” gave the U.S. a lead it never relinquished with a 50.5-second first lap.

Felix and Francena McCrory widened the gap to three seconds, and Richards-Ross, who has run more sub-50-second 400s than any other woman, blazed to a split of 49.10.

The women credited U.S. coach Amy Deem, who is the University of Miami coach, and relay coach Jon Drummond with preparing them and the world-record-busting 400-relay team to run fast and hold on to the baton.

“There was great energy on this team,” Richards-Ross said. “I told my mom and dad, ‘Something special is going to happen.’ ”

The U.S. track and field team has won 29 medals, one short of its goal.

Injuries in the men’s 400 hurt, but there’s one last shot in the men’s marathon Sunday.

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