For Usain Bolt, it was the gold medal that also reinforced it was time to go.
For the first time the world’s greatest sprinter felt like others were running against him – he wanted to go quicker but his body wouldn’t let him.
Usain Bolt won the 200m but the world record he greedily coveted before the race – breaking his own world record – escaped him. Bolt wanted to beat Bolt, but Bolt had to accept he is no longer the Bolt he was.
“My legs just didn’t feel rested, I am not 26 any more, I am not 21 any more. It’s not going to be as it used to be. I wanted it but my body couldn’t take me,” he said.
“I was disappointed. I am always happy to win but I wanted to run faster. Even though I didn’t break the world record I wanted to run faster. Key thing is that I won and that is what I came here for.” It was a similar lament after the 100: I wanted to go quicker but I can’t any more.
On a balmy night in Brazil the rain fell and the wind kicked up shortly before his race. It made the idea of a broken record either unattainable or all the more glorious.
Bolt was not exactly sluggish – he won in 19.78s, ahead of Canadian Andre de Grasse second in 20.02s with veteran Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre winning bronze in 20.12s in a photo finish with Briton Adam Gemili. The bronze was decided by thousandths of a second.
Bolt came to Rio to win three gold medals. Only the fallibility of his relay teammates will stop him achieving his goal.
“I don’t need to prove anything else. What else can I do to prove to the world I am the greatest?” Bolt told reporters.
“I am trying to be one of the greatest. Be among (Muhammad) Ali and Pele. I hope to be in that bracket after these Games.”
Bolt’s standing as an Olympian also draws the inevitable comparison with the other luminary of these games Michael Phelps.
Bolt said it was an imponderable for others to determine who was the greatest.
“Why is it I knew someone was going to ask that,” Bolt laughed.
“For me I can’t say (who is better). We do totally different events you have to leave that up to mediators and the press.
“He has shown he is one of the best, no doubt, he has dominated retired then come back. For me I respect him because he has done so much for his sport also.”
That was also part of the enjoyment of the medal for Bolt, to be able to help elevate his sport at a time when it was being assailed by systemic drug use.