Jamaica’s Usain Bolt on Sunday became the first athlete to win three Olympic 100m titles by edging out American Justin Gatlin to the gold medal at Rio 2016.
The 29-year-old Bolt ran 9.81 seconds in his final Olympics to replicate his successes at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
Gatlin, who had been twice banned for doping offences, finished 0.08 seconds behind Bolt to take silver at 9.89.
“I expected to go faster, but I’m happy that I won,’’ Bolt said. “I’m here to perform. I did what I had to.’’
Canada’s Andre de Grasse took bronze in a personal best of 9.91, ahead of Bolt’s Jamaican team-mate Yohan Blake.
Bolt remains on target to leave Rio with a third successive Olympic treble after winning the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay titles in 2008 and 2012.
The world record holder had said in February he would retire from athletics after the 2017 World Championships.
“Somebody said I can become immortal. Two more medals to go and I can sign off immortal,” he said.
Bolt was slower out of the blocks than 34-year-old Gatlin, who was aiming to regain the title he won at Athens 2004.
But he surged through from 60 metres to pass Gatlin and comfortably win his seventh Olympic gold.
Bolt received a hero’s reception as he walked out into Rio’s Olympic Stadium before the race, and the crowd chanted his name after his victory.
The Jamaican had won at Beijing 2008 with a time of 9.69 to set a world record.He went on to set another record with 9.58 at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin.
At the 2012 Games in London, Bolt won with 9.63 for an Olympic record, while he won the 2013 World Championships in Moscow with 9.77.
He returned a time of 9.79 at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing. The events of Sunday night in Rio now shows Gatlin is a derisive figure in the sport, having twice been banned for doping offences.
In stark contrast to Bolt’s reception, he walked out to the start line to a chorus of boos. Bolt admitted afterwards he was “surprised’’ by the crowd’s reaction.
Gatlin’s first drugs ban in 2001 was reduced from two years to one after he proved the amphetamines he was taking were for an attention deficit disorder.
He then tested positive for testosterone in 2006, a year after winning the 100m
and 200m double at the World Championships.
The American served a four-year ban that was twice reduced, first from a lifetime then to eight years.
Gatlin returned to the track in 2010, claiming Olympic bronze at London 2012 and losing to Bolt in the 2015 World Championships.
He was the clear favourite to win in Beijing last year, and many thought he could beat Bolt in Rio.
Gatlin had recorded the fastest time of the year, clocking 9.80 last month, while Bolt injured a hamstring at the end of June.
However, Bolt showed an expectant Rio crowd he was in great shape by clocking a season’s best 9.86 as he cantered to victory in his semi-final.
And the sport’s greatest showman produced an even better run when it really mattered to send the Olympic Stadium into raptures. “After the semi-final I felt extremely good,’’ Bolt added.
“I wanted to run faster but with the turnaround time, we normally have two hours, but we had one hour 20 minutes, it was challenging.
“This is what we train for. I told you guys I was going to do it. Stay tuned, two more to go.’’