Usain Bolt became the first man to win successive Olympic gold medals in the glamour sprints Thursday when his giant stride carried him around the curve and down the homestretch to a convincing victory in the 200 meters.
Jamaica’s Bolt finished in 19.32 seconds four days after winning the 100 meters. Yohan Blake played silver-medal apprentice to his teammate and Kingston training partner once again. Warren Weir placed third to give Jamaica a sweep of the event for the first time. Only the U.S. had done it previously — six times.
Bolt, in Lane 7, looked across at Blake, in Lane 4, a few times in the last 50 meters. Blake has superior closing speed and the Olympic Stadium spectators sucked in their breath briefly when it looked like Blake might chase Bolt down.
But Bolt held his form. As the crowd exhaled, he even had time to put index finger to lips as he ran across the line, which was reminiscent of his final celebratory strides in Beijing four years ago.
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He erased the doubts about his work ethic, fitness, starting technique and desire with his unprecedented feat.
“I want to be a living legend, walking around,” he said. “That would be pretty good.”
After finishing, Bolt, 25, put on another show: He hugged his teammates and fans in the stands; did a set of pushups; knelt down and kissed the track; struck his archer’s pose; borrowed a camera from a photographer and snapped pictures of Blake.
Bolt, who holds the world record of 19.19, appeared so relaxed before the start that he chatted with his lane attendant. He wore a yellow Puma cap with UB on it.
During introductions, Bolt waved to the crowd as Queen Elizabeth would, with a stiff palm.
Blake, whom Bolt nicknamed “The Beast,” did his clawing-at-the-cameras routine.
Bolt made a “shhhhh” signal as he folded his long legs into the blocks. His start put him in strong position and when the runners made up the stagger, he already had a comfortable lead.
Also at Olympic Stadium, two ex-Florida Gator teammates finished 1-2 in the triple jump.
World champ Christian Taylor — slapping his face and encouraging the crowd to do rhythmic clapping — took the lead with his fourth jump of 7.81 meters, on which he toed the line perfectly. He fouled on his first two attempts, then fouled on his sixth, and had to hope his mark would stand.
Will Claye moved into second place on his fourth leap with a distance of 17.62 meters.
Then Taylor and Claye, who used to train together and decided to turn pro last summer after Claye won the world indoor title and Taylor won the world outdoor title, had to wait for Italy’s Fabrizio Donato to take his last jump. Donato ran through the pit and wound up third.
Miami’s Lauryn Williams was sure-handed and speedy in anchoring the U.S. women’s 400-relay team to first in its heat and the best qualifying time (41.64 seconds) for Friday’s final. Williams was part of botched relays at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. This time the exchange was clean and Williams opened a gap on her way to the finish.
The relay heat is expected to be Williams’ only appearance on the track in her third Olympics. Williams, silver medalist in the 100 in Athens, did not make the U.S. team in the open 100 or 200 but she was placed in the relay pool by U.S. head coach and University of Miami coach Amy Deem.
“I was so nervous I felt like I was running the 100,” Williams said. “Having messed it up two times I felt a tremendous amount of pressure. We said, ‘Get that stick around by any means necessary.’”
Williams said the U.S. women have been practicing handoffs “til we were blue in the face.” She even found herself walking out of the athletes’ village instinctively thrusting her left hand behind her.
“We wanted to show the quote-unquote B team is really fast and show how dominant and deep we can be,” she said. “It’s bittersweet being here to play a supporting role instead of going out with a bang. But it was an important piece and it’s a great weight off my shoulders.”
Kenya’s David “King David” Rudisha continued his command of the 800 meters by taking gold.