Usain Bolt finished the 200 meters with an uncustomary lean. He gritted his teeth as he ran through the line.
Bolt was far ahead of the field in winning his second gold medal of the Rio Games on Thursday but he had promised to try to break his world record, and didn’t want to let down spectators who filled Olympic Stadium just to see him.
Bolt increased the margin on his opponents in the last 30 meters, pumped his arms, breathed hard. In several of his previous seven Olympic triumphs he has chosen to start his celebration before crossing the finish line.
But, perhaps because he keeps winning so easily, he wanted to deliver a special treat and run faster than his 2009 mark of 19.19. He didn’t come close on a wet track, and he knew it, glancing at the clock that flashed 19.78.
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He waved a hand dismissively, but was happy to collect another gold, and his third straight in his favorite race. He is eight-for-eight in his quest for a triple-triple at his third Olympics. He’s got one event left, the 400 relay on Friday.
“Brilliant so far,” he said. “One set to go.”
Bolt entertained his fans by donning the Jamaican flag and shaking hands. He kissed the track, made the sign of the cross, and struck his “To Di World” pose, pretending to shoot a lightning bolt into the sky.
“I wanted to run faster but my legs didn’t respond,” said Bolt, 29. “I’m getting older. I don’t recover like I used to.”
Missing from the field was Bolt’s main challenger, Justin Gatlin of Orlando, whose semifinal time was too slow to make the eight-man field. They’ll meet again in the relay.
Oregon’s Ashton Eaton won the decathlon, the two-day test of versatility, to join Bob Mathias (1948 and 1952) of the U.S. and Great Britain’s Daley Thompson (1980 and 1984) as the only two-time decathlon winners in Olympic history.
Eaton was also trying to break his world record of 9,045 points but finished short of it with an Olympic record-tying 8,893 points, ahead of Kevin Mayer of France (8,834) and Damian Warner of Canada (8,666). Eaton finished in first in the long jump and 400 meters, second in 110 hurdles and third in the pole vault. His wife, Canada’s Brianne Theisen-Eaton, took bronze in the heptathlon on Tuesday.
“I think there’s a way to make this event wildly entertaining for spectators,” Eaton said, pondering his future. “Bill Murray suggested we put an Average Joe in every event to give reference. That would be pretty sweet in the decathlon.”
Dalilah Muhammad led from start to finish and won the women’s 400 hurdles by a wide gap in 53.13 to become the first American woman to win the event. She is coached in Los Angeles by Lawrence Johnson, along with training partners Brianna Rollins and Kristi Castlin, who finished 1-3 in the 100-meter hurdles on Wednesday.
Gainesville’s Kerron Clement won the men’s 400 hurdles in a world-leading time of 47.73 eight years after he took silver in Beijing.
“I was just sprinting for my life,” he said. “It’s a surreal feeling.”
Oregon’s Ryan Crouser won the shot put with an Olympic record throw of 22.52 meters on his fifth attempt and Joe Kovacs took silver to give the U.S. its first 1-2 finish since 1996.
The U.S. women’s 400-relay team avoided another disappointment by successfully appealing its last-place result in the qualifying heat. Allyson Felix argued she was bumped by a Brazilian runner just before she was to hand off the baton to English Gardner. She was thrown off balance and had to toss the baton, which Gardner couldn’t catch. But Felix kept her wits and told Gardner to pick it up and finish so the race could be reviewed and protested.
The appeal was granted and the Americans ran alone in the evening session to earn an official qualifying time.