JAMAICA’s Usain Bolt became the first athlete to win three Olympic 100m titles by beating American Justin Gatlin to gold at Rio 2016.
Bolt, 29, ran 9.81 seconds in his final Olympics to replicate his success at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
Gatlin, twice banned for doping offences, finished 0.08 seconds behind Bolt to take silver.
“I expected to go faster, but I’m happy that I won,” Bolt told BBC Sport. “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.
There was no British interest in Sunday’s showpiece as James Dasaolu was eliminated in the semi-finals.
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 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.
“It wasn’t about the time, it was just about winning the gold and going out on top,” said Michael Johnson, four-time Olympic champion and BBC Sport analyst.
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.Advertisement
“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.”