Justin Gatlin blew his second chance to upend Usain Bolt’s quest for a triple-triple of gold medals by miscalculating his lead and the surging speed of his opponents in his semifinal of the 200 meters Wednesday. Gatlin failed to advance to Thursday’s final in one of the most surprising twists of the Rio Games so far.
Gatlin’s time of 20.13 was ninth overall. His missed the final by three-hundredths of a second. He was third in his semi behind runners from Panama and the Netherlands
Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson won her second gold and completed the sprint double by dominating the women’s 200 meters. Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands was second and Torie Bowie won a bronze to go with the silver she won in the 100 meters.
For Bolt, the semifinal of the 200 was all about conserving energy and sharpening form. So he couldn’t help but smile when Canada’s Andre De Grasse (19.80) surged and tried to nip him at the finish line after he had already downshifted to a lope. Bolt’s time of 19.78 was fastest among the qualifiers.
His introduction generated a loud roar from spectators and he responded with a subdued acknowledgment for the cameras. He’s said he might attempt to break his world record of 19.19 on Thursday if he’s feeling good.
Gatlin was pushed down the stretch and took a risk by letting up, looking around and apparently not noticing Chandy Martina in Lane 8.
LaShawn Merritt, who took the bronze medal in his specialty, the 400, and is running the 200 as a relative novice, won his heat in 19.94.
Tianna Bartoletta won the women’s long jump with a leap of 17.17 meters, just ahead of teammate Brittney Reese at 17.15. Bartoletta won the 2005 world title as Madison, and she won it again last summer.
Russia’s Darya Klishna, who was in the Olympics, then out, then back in again, finished ninth at 6.63 meters. Klishna lives and trains at the IMG academy in Bradenton, Florida, and successfully argued before the Court of Arbitration for Sport that she should not be banned along with the rest of the Russian track and field team because she passed doping tests outside her native country.
Ashton Eaton was in the lead after the first five events of the decathlon, finishing a long day with victory in the 400.