History-maker Usain Bolt said he deserves to be among sport’s all-time greats after romping to a third straight Olympic 200m gold.
With a third consecutive sweep of the 100m, 200m and relay sprints in sight on Friday, the world’s fastest man argued he should be in the pantheon of sporting heroes with Pele, Muhammad Ali and Michael Phelps.
“I am trying to be one of the greatest. Be among Ali and Pele,” he declared in the seconds after the win.
“I’ll wait to see what you guys write tomorrow,” the sprint king added at a later press conference.
“I’m just waiting to see what the media have to say and if they put me in that bracket,” he said when asked how he stacked up against football star Pele and boxing legend Ali.
“I’ve worked all my career, all my life for this moment. Hopefully you can read about me as one of the greatest people in sport, that’s my focus.”
Bolt, who has now won a staggering 19 Olympic and world titles, insisted he had run his final individual Olympic race.
“I’ve proven to the world that I’m the greatest and that’s what I came here for,” he said, sounding for a moment like Ali himself.
“That’s is why I said it’s my last Olympics,” added Bolt, who will look to bow out with the so-called triple-triple in the 4x100m relay on Friday.
“I can’t prove anything else. To be eight-time Olympic gold medallist now is a big deal, it’s shocking. I’ve pushed myself to be the best. There’s nothing else I can do.”
Bolt’s achievements rank with swimmer Phelps – the most successful Olympic athlete ever – who signed off with five more gold medals in Rio to extend his record tally to 23.
But Bolt, who turns 30 when the Rio Games close on Sunday, refused to say who was the greatest Olympian.
“I can’t say, swimming and track and field are totally different events,” he shrugged. “He’s proved he is one of the best without a doubt. He’s won so many medals, he’s dominated the sport. We’re great in our own different fields.”
In an era when the spectre of doping in sport looms large and one of his biggest rivals, American Justlin Gatlin, is a two-time drug cheat, Bolt took a swipe at such athletes.
“I’ve just proven to the world that you can do it clean, with hard work and determination,” he said. “I’ve made the sport exciting, made people want to watch the sport. I’ve just put the sport on a different level and put on it a different pedestal.”
Bolt looked annoyed as he crossed the line in 19.78 seconds, well ahead of Canada’s Andre De Grasse (20.02) but some way off the world record of 19.19 he set in Berlin seven years ago.
“I wanted to run a faster time,” he said. “I knew it was going to be hard to break the world record because when I came off the corner, my legs decided: ‘Listen, we’re not going to go any faster.’
“I wasn’t fully happy but the key thing is that I won and that’s what I came here for. I’m not 21 any more.”
After Bolt, Andre de Grasse of Canada took silver, while Christophe Lemaitre finished third to claim bronze for France.
The win keeps Bolt’s hopes of an unprecedented “triple triple” alive.
This was the Jamaican’s 13th individual world or Olympic sprint title from a possible 14 since he took athletics by storm at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Bolt, already the Rio 100m champion, will go for a third straight sweep of all three sprint golds in the 4x100m relay on Friday.
1. Usain Bolt (Jamaica) 19.78 seconds
2. Andre De Grasse (Canada) 20.02
3. Christophe Lemaitre (France) 20.12
4. Adam Gemili (Britain) 20.12
5. Churandy Martina (Netherlands) 20.13
6. LaShawn Merritt (U.S.) 20.19
7. Alonso Edward (Panama) 20.23
8. Ramil Guliyev (Turkey) 20.43