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Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012

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Running into the record books: Usain Bolt leads the 200-meter finalists toward the homestretch on Thursday at the Olympic Stadium and celebrates with his trademark pose (below) after his victory. AFP-JIJI

Bolt completes historic sweep with 200 victory


Staff writer

LONDON — Jamaica had a run for the ages on Thursday.

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Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir completed a sweep in the 200-meter final at the Olympic Stadium.

A self-proclaimed "Living Legend," Bolt conquered the seemingly unconquerable as he completed the sprint double, defending the pair of titles he won four years ago in Beijing.

Bolt clocked a season-best 19.32 seconds, 0.02 seconds shy of his Olympic record.

Blake, a rising star at 22 years old, pushed his older rival, but Bolt's experience and unique talents propelled him to the finish line 0.12 seconds ahead of Blake. Weir, also 22, finished the race in 19.84.

American Wallace Spearmon had a season-best time of 19.90 and finished fourth.

No male in Olympic history had ever defended his 100 and 200 titles.

Now, Bolt, the world record holder in both races, holds that distinction.

"I did what I wanted," said Bolt, who was beaten by Blake in both the 100 and 200 at the Jamaica Olympic Trials before returning to form, first in Sunday's 100. "I came out of a rough season and I did what I had to do."

Rounding the turn for the final stretch, Bolt looked poised to earn the historic victory. His arms flailing and legs kicking, he stormed to the finish line ahead of Blake.

This was his race to lose. He refused to let that happen.

"It's wonderful. Jamaica has proven that we are the greatest sprint country," Bolt said.

"It was hard for me, it was hard. I'm really dedicated to my work. I knew what London meant and I'm proud of myself," he added.

Asked what he would like to see in the Friday newspapers, Bolt offered this response: "I'm now a living legend, bask in my glory."

But he did admit he's not quite sure how to explain the full meaning of what he had accomplished.

"To have set a goal for yourself for years to become a legend, you can't really explain what that means. It's not going to hit you until you sit down and think about it," Bolt said.

Blake praised his famous teammate after the race.

"Tonight was good," Blake said. "It was great. I came off the turn and saw the big man in front of me. I said, 'OK, God says it's Usain's time.'

"He's good, he's great. We have wonderful chemistry. I'm happy to be here with him.

"I think he's a great encouragement to all of us. This is his moment and he has to enjoy it."

Indeed, Bolt's sprint to history cemented his legendary status, zooming around the bend and darting to the finish in an action-packed highlight reel. This race was as highly anticipated as any event in athletics history and cameras flashed the second Bolt stepped onto the track to warm up and stretch before the race.

At 8:55 p.m., Bolt officially changed his status from legend-in-the-making to legend. It would require, he insisted, a sprint double again to make it happen.

The inevitable question about if Jamaica's sprint team is drug-free elicited this response from Bolt: "Without a doubt, we train hard. Especially my teammates, we see each other work each day. . . . We get injuries, we have ice baths. We are trying our best to show the world that we are clean."

Blake recognized the significance of Jamaica's 1-2-3 finish, its dominance, on the world's biggest athletics stage.

"This moment here is special for Jamaica. This is so good to get the one, two, three," Blake gushed.

Said Spearmon: "Congratulations to those guys, they were superb. . . . Those guys are on another planet right now, congratulations."

That wasn't the only magnificent performance on Day 13 of the London Summer Olympics. Kenya's David Rudisha set a world record in the men's 800, completing the race in 1 minute, 40.91 seconds to break his own mark of 1:41.01.

Additionally, Ashton Eaton became the 13th American to win the decathlon gold, a feat stretching back to Jim Thorpe's triumph at the 1912 Stockholm Games.

The 800 final was described as "the fastest 800 final, top to bottom, in history," by the stadium's public-address announcer. All eight finishers ran one of the following: personal best, season best, national record, world junior record or world record.

Rudisha's closing speed made him untouchable, though silver medalist and 18-year-old Nijel Amos of Botswana finished the race in impressive form in 1:41.73, the world junior record.

Kenya's Timothy Kitum ran a personal best 1:42.53 to take the bronze. Great Britain's Andrew Osagie rounded out the field in eighth in 1:43.77. (At the 2008 Beijing Games, Kenya's Wilfred Bungei won the gold in 1:44.65.)

"I am very happy. I've waited for this moment for a very long time," Rudisha said. "To come here and get a world record is unbelievable. I had no doubt about winning. Today the weather was beautiful, (so) I decided to go for it."

London Games Organizing Committee chairman Sebastian Coe was excited to see Rudisha's history-making run.

"That was simply an unbelievable performance," Coe said. "David Rudisha showed supreme physical and mental confidence to run like that in an Olympic final.

"Instead of just doing enough to win the race, he wanted to do something extraordinary and go for the world record as well.

"Rudisha's run will go down in history as one of the greatest Olympic victories. I feel privileged to have witnessed it in London."

American Nick Symmonds, the fifth-place finisher, recognized that Rudisha's new standard for half-milers was not your everyday race to compete in.

"I was honored to run in a race like that in the same race as him," Symmonds said. "I had a front-row seat (to history)."

For Botswana, Amos made a different type of history, becoming the African nation's first-ever Olympic medalist.

"I am very happy and I expect back home everybody is really happy about it," he said.

Still a teenager, Amos approached the race with the wide-eyed optimism of youth.

"I knew if I chased David Rudisha I had a chance. There was a lot of expectation, but my aim was to get into the final. A medal is a bonus."

Eaton led throughout the decathlon and completed Thursday's five events in strong fashion. He ran the 110-meter hurdles in 13.56 seconds (second-best time), tossed the discus 42.53 meters, was the third-best pole vaulter (5.20 meters), ninth-best in the javelin (61.96 meters) and completed the 10-event test of all-around athletics skills in the 1,500, clocking the seventh-fastest time in 4:33.59.

Eaton, who set the decathlon world record earlier this year (9,039 points), secured the title with top points for best finishes in the 100, long jump and 400 on Wednesday and eight top-10 finishes overall in the meet.

When he had completed his competition, Eaton said simply, "This (gold medal) has changed my life, (but) I like what I'm doing.

"I don't do it for any of that stuff (fame or fortune) or riches," Eaton added after he was asked if he expects to cash in on his newfound fame. "I think it's good sports promotion (for decathlon). It helps the athletes."

Eaton amassed 8,869 points.

American Trey Hardee took second with 8,6711 points and Cuba's Leonel Suarez nabbed the bronze with 8,523.

Keisuke Ushiro placed 20th in the final standings. He was Japan's first Olympic decathlete since the 1964 Tokyo Games. He said "power is key" to succeeding in the decathlon, adding he enjoyed the competition.

Christian Taylor of the United States earned the gold in the men's triple jump (17.81 meters), while American Will Claye grabbed the silver and Italy's Donato got the gold. Afterward, Taylor praised the fans for their enthusiasm.

"I played this like another meet, but the energy that 80,000 people bring is just phenomenal," he said.

Czech Republic's Barbora Spotakova repeated as the women's champion in the javelin with a top toss of 69.55 meters.

In the men's 4x400 relay heats, the Bahamas and United States both qualified in 2:58.87 from the second heat. Trinidad and Tobago and Great Britain were tied in 3:00.38 in the first heat.

The United States ran a season-best 41.64 in the first round of the women's 4x100 relay, followed by Trinidad and Tobago in 42.31, Ukraine in 42.36 and Jamaica in 42.37.

After excelling at the 2009 world championships, South African Caster Semenya, who was subjected to gender testing before the IAAF, track and field's world governing body gave her the OK to compete in 2010, leads the women's 800 entering the final. Semenya was clocked in 1:57.67 in the second of three semifinal heats.

The women's world record in the 800 has stood since July 26, 1983, but the focus was about qualifying not about the old record.

"I think the time I ran makes me very confident," Semenya said. "You have to think about your own race, you have to think about yourself."

Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba is an unlikely qualifier for the final, placing sixth in 1:58.67, a national record.

"I love sport, but first of all I am still a student," the 19-year-old said. "It has been a huge effort to be training and to keep up with my studies, with no support from anyone, not from the government. The only help came from a member of parliament, who by his own initiative gives us young athletes some travel money to get to the capital to take part in competitions. His name is Gabriel Ndoricimpa."



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