Jamaica's Usain Bolt Retains Title: World's Fastest Man

Aug 15, 2016
Originally published on August 15, 2016 9:36 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Yes, Usain Bolt is still the fastest man on Earth. He won the Olympic 100 meters in 2008, then again in 2012. And last night, he officially entered his fastest-man title in the record books. Bolt won the 100 meters in Rio and became the first to win the event in three Olympic Games. NPR's Tom Goldman watched it happen at Rio's Olympic stadium and joins us now. Good morning.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Well, it must have been exciting to be there.

GOLDMAN: Electric. There's so much anticipation, you know, for the men's 100 meters. And when you have a guy like Bolt, who's the greatest sprinter ever, it just adds to the excitement. And I think the moments right before the gun are really amazing. You can hear a pin drop in a stadium filled with thousands of people. And where I was - I was sitting, an usher came over and reminded us not to jump up in excitement because so many people behind us had iPhones and cameras poised. So the stage is set, and then the gun goes off, and it's over like that, you know? Last night, it was 9.81 seconds. Justin Gatlin of the U.S. was second - just eight-hundredths of a second slower than Bolt. And then Andre De Grasse of Canada, who's only 21 and who appears to be the cream of the next generation of sprinters, he finished third and won the bronze.

MONTAGNE: And afterwards, what did the athletes have to say?

GOLDMAN: You know, they said it wasn't a particularly good race. Both Bolt and Gatlin complained of being tired before the final. Bolt said his legs were dead at the start. And that showed, as Gatlin got off to the better start. But Bolt, as he always does, he ran down his opponents. He passed Gatlin about 60 meters down the track. And afterwards, both sprinters complained about a schedule change that gave athletes less time to rest after the evening semifinals. They had a little over an hour. And Bolt said the race was slower because of it. Here he is at his press conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

USAIN BOLT: Every year, it's always two hours or more between the semis and the finals. So I personally think if we got more time, we would definitely be faster. This is the first time I had to actually pretty much jog back to the wall up here to get ready for the finals. So I don't know why they changed it, but what are you going to do? You're an athlete, so you just got to run.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, even Usain Bolt - just an athlete, right? But, you know, like him, we weren't able to find out by air time why the schedule change was made. One hopes it wasn't a prime time TV decision because if it were, TV viewers got an inferior product.

MONTAGNE: And also, Tom, Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin in that race got very different reactions.

GOLDMAN: They did. Bolt is a rock star. The cheering starts when he appears on the track. Gatlin was booed every time his name was announced. He's been suspended twice for testing positive for banned drugs. And with so much talk about doping at these games, Gatlin has become a lightning rod. He said he didn't let the booing bother him, and he said he has the respect of his fellow sprinters, which he said is all that matters to him. And Bolt said he was shocked by the crowd's reaction. Gatlin has several more events, so the situation may continue.

MONTAGNE: OK, we're surging into the final week of these Olympics. Any moments of this past weekend worth noting?

GOLDMAN: Absolutely. We've had two athlete-involved marriage proposals. The second one happened yesterday. A female Chinese diver had just gotten her silver medal when her longtime boyfriend - also a Chinese diver - stepped up on the podium, knelt down and presented her with a diamond engagement ring. So that's not a bad haul. It was a very sweet moment, although Reuters quoted the bride to be as saying, what touched me the most is that he said he's willing to be bullied by me for life. So true love, I guess, reigns in Rio.

MONTAGNE: Well, there you go. Tom, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman in Rio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.