Usain Bolt brought his spectacular Olympic career to a thrilling close, completing his ‘triple triple’ mission by leading Jamaica to victory in the men’s 4x100 metres relay.
The world’s fastest man received his ninth gold medal with a clean sweep of the 100m, 200m and sprint relay events in three successive Games.
This would be his final Olympic appearance, said the 29-year-old sprinter, who kissed the track goodbye after winning the men’s 200m – his last individual Olympic race – on Thursday night.
After sprinting away from the second-placed Japanese sprint relay team on Friday night in Brazil, Bolt told the BBC: “I’m just relieved, I’ve done it. It’s unreal, I never knew from the start this would happen to me and it has, it’s just a brilliant feeling. I’m the greatest.”
Bolt signed off from his sport's biggest stage in trademark fashion as he took the baton from Nickel Ashmeade and, knees high and arms pumping, stormed to victory to huge cheers.
He raised his baton to the heavens as he crossed the line before embracing his team-mates, also including Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake, before the quartet set off on a lap of honour, draped in Jamaican flags.
The athlete, who turns 30 on Sunday, blew kisses to the stands. It was the end of an era.
This is not the Bolt of eight years ago, when he stormed to his 100m and 200m world records in Beijing, nor even of four years ago when he blitzed the field in London.
Age is catching up with him – the only thing that can, it seems. He declared after his 200m success on Thursday night that his legs refused to go faster and he felt tired.
He remains, though, utterly dominant, and will go down in history as one of the greatest runners of all time.
The Jamaican team's relay time was slower than both of their previous Olympic triumphs. That is all relative, though – it was still the fourth fastest time in history.
"My fans, you guys never doubted me a min and for that I belong to you guys forever #blessed," wrote Bolt in a tweet that had been retweeted 15,000 times.
The United States came home in third in the relay, but while they were still celebrating their bronze medal was disqualified.
Bolt's teammate, Asafa Powell, said: “Usain has done so much ... He's just a great athlete. He's a legend.”
And US sprinter Tyson Gay added: “Nine gold medals, words can't even describe what he's done for the sport.”
Additional reporting from Press Association
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