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With 9 golds, Lightning Bolt bids adieu

Usain Bolt bid a blazing-fast farewell to the Rio de Janeiro Games — and likely the Olympics altogether — on Friday night with yet another anchor leg for the ages. He turned a close 4x100 relay race against Japan and the US into a never-a-doubt runaway, helping Jamaica cross the line in 37.27 seconds. Japan won the silver medal, finishing .33 seconds behind. The US finished the race third but endured yet another relay debacle — disqualified because leadoff runner Mike Rodgers passed the baton to Justin Gatlin outside the exchange zone. That promoted Canada to the bronze medal.

This marked the ninth time since 1995 the US men have been disqualified or failed to get the baton around at Olympics or world championships. That will cause more hand-wringing in the States. In Jamaica, they’ll party. Bolt’s record in Olympic finals: Nine races, nine wins. Nobody’s done that before, and nobody’s on the horizon to do it again soon. Along with Bolt for his final trip down the track were Nickel Ashmeade, training partner Yohan Blake and the Jamaican elder statesman, former world-record holder Asafa Powell.

When Bolt received the yellow baton from Ashmeade for his final run down the straightaway, he was even, maybe a step behind, Aska Cambridge of Japan and Trayvon Bromell of the United States. That lasted about four steps. With 70 meters to go, it was all over. Bolt looked at the clock — same as he did when he finished the 200-meter victory the night before. No world record, but he still has a piece of that one, too — it’s 36.84 seconds, set four years ago at the London Games. Musical selection for Bolt’s final parade around the track: Bob Marley’s “Jammin.” With most of the other debates over about greatest this, greatest that, a new one might be whether Bolt now surpasses Marley as the most famous person to rock the world from the country known for sea, sun and sprints. 

When Bolt’s on the track, everyone forgets. A lot of that is because the show isn’t over when he’s through running. After crossing the line for his finale, Bolt pumped his fist in the air, slowed down and took off those famous gold spikes. He huddled with his teammates and they prayed. Then, a final, luxurious ring around the track. Once he got back to the finish line, his partners peeled off. With the stadium emptying, Bolt kneeled down, brought his hands out to his sides and soaked in one last burst of applause. Then, he kissed the track and slapped his hand on the number “3’” painted at the starting line.    
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