RIO DE JANEIRO — The greats prevailed on Thursday at the Olympic Stadium as defending champions remained golden and future stars notched gold medals.
The skies opened up with rain less than 25 minutes before Usain Bolt’s final individual race at the Olympics. Yet the world’s fastest man remained unfazed and won the men’s 200 meters in a season’s best of 19.78 seconds for an unprecedented third consecutive gold in the event.
Bolt came off the turn with the lead and powered through the final straightaway for the win but looked up to the sky with a small grin as he did not break his own world record of 19.19 seconds. Being the first man to win the 100 and 200 at three straight Olympics should make up for it.
He took his victory lap while avoiding a cameraman on a Segway and took a bow near the start of the 100-meter starting line—a place where he won a third 100-meter gold medal just four days ago. He ended his celebration by kissing the track, hitting his signature “To Di World” pose and walking off to address the media.
Andre De Grasse, who smiled to the finish line in Wednesday’s semifinal with Bolt, worked hard to run 20.02 and add an Olympic silver medal to complement his bronze from the 100 meters. One of the biggest surprises of the race was France’s Christophe Lemaitre moving up to third for bronze at 20.12 (just three thousandths of a second ahead of Great Britain’s Adam Gemili) after finishing sixth in London.
One last night of Bolt continues on Friday with the men’s 4×100-meter relay.
The world’s greatest athlete repeats
Ashton Eaton’s resume as “The World’s Greatest Athlete” included the world record, one Olympic gold medal and two world championship gold medals heading into Rio. He can now add the Olympic record as he ran 4:23.33 in the 1500 meters to tie Roman Sebrle’s Olympic record of 8893 decathlon points from the 2004 Olympics and defend his own win from London. Eaton is the first man to defend his Olympic decathlon title since Daley Thompson’s 1980 and 1984 victories.
Eaton held off a strong challenge from France’s Kevin Mayer, who settled for silver and the French national record with his 8838-point total. Canada’s Damian Warner rounded out the podium with his bronze medal finish at 8666 points.
Another Olympic record falls
The shot put world record by Randy Barnes survived another day as Ryan Crouser set a personal best, did it again and then decided to top the Olympic record in the men’s shot put with a 22.52-meter toss on his sixth throw of the night, which broke a 28-year old record by East Germany’s Ulf Timmermann.
Compatriot and 2015 world champion Joe Kovacs took silver with his 21.78-meter toss to help the United States go 1–2 for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when world record-holder Barnes and John Godina went 1–2. New Zealand’s Tomas Walsh took bronze on Thursday night.
Crouser continued his family’s legacy of great American throwers. Ryan is the son of Mitch Crouser, who served as an alternate on the 1984 Olympic discus team. His uncle, Brian Crouser, was a two-time Olympian in the javelin. Ryan is the first to bring home an Olympic medal and his friendly rivalry with Kovacs could soon challenge the world record.
U.S. sweeps the 400-meter hurdles
New champions were also crowned in the men’s and women’s 400-meter hurdles as Kerron Clement improved upon his silver medal from eight years ago by taking a wire-to-wire win for gold in 47.73 seconds. The United States women had never won gold in the women’s 400-meter hurdles but finally ended the drought as Delilah Muhammad won gold in 53.13. Sara Slott Petersen of Demark was unable to reel in Muhammad after the final hurdle and finished 0.42 seconds back for silver. Ashley Spencer of the United States added another medal with her personal best of 53.72.
Thirty medals may be in reach
The United States track and field team has stood out with 25 medals so far in Rio. The team won 29 at the 2012 Olympics in London. Friday will feature finals for the women’s pole vault, the men’s and women’s 4×400-meter relay, the men’s hammer throw, the women’s 5,000 meters and both 4×100-meter relays.