In Depth

Usain Bolt: A 'modern Muhammad Ali' who has saved athletics

Jamaican superstar has a mixture of talent and charisma that no-one else can rival in a sport that is in crisis

There was plenty to shout about on day nine of the Olympics as Team GB registered five golds and athletics heralded the arrival of a new star in the form of South African 400m runner Wayde van Niekerk, who beat Michael Johnson's 17-year-old world record.

But above it all towered the figure of Usain Bolt.

The Jamaican superstar sauntered to a third straight 100m title and laid the foundations of what could be an historic "triple-triple" - winning gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relays at three consecutive Olympics.

The race itself was a standard Bolt masterclass, as he powered through the field to win in 9.81secs, afterwards saying his relatively slow speed was down to the lack of recovery time after the semi-final.

Once again it was US pantomime villain Justin Gatlin, who has twice been banned for doping offences, who suffered at the hands of Bolt, after also being booed by the Brazilian crowd.

"Bolt winning his third 100m Olympic title was both predictable and reassuring. While he is winning, everyone seems happy. Bolt puts the smile on this sport it has so badly lacked in the past 12 months," says Ron Lewis of The Times.

"It was not a great start by Bolt in the final, as he was left two metres behind Gatlin. But once Bolt gets his huge frame upright, his legs pump away like a super-powered steam locomotive, creating more and more power as they eat up the track. As early as 50m, it seemed obvious that he was going to win. You could see the momentum; the stadium seemed to shake as he battered his way up lane six, eyes glued ahead of him. Gatlin, two lanes away, must have felt him coming. He has experienced that feeling too often before."

The sight of Bolt surging to victory is a vital one for athletics, says Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph.

"People in track and field worry constantly about how the sport will cope when Bolt is gone. After this three-peat, you can see why. No other sport can feed off his mix of talent and charisma. He has come through every test his gift has set him. Every time he wins a race of this magnitude he presents the physical capabilities of humans in a compelling light.

Bolt remains "a redemptive figure, the last line of defence against terminal despair over doping".He is "the modern-day Muhammad Ali", says Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail. "A sportsman with class and charisma in equal measure and a presence that transcends the sport.

"A second Olympic 100m gold for Gatlin would have amounted to the worst nightmare for Thomas Bach and his IOC cronies when they have been so spineless in their response to the Russian doping scandal. So lucky for them that they have Bolt, a champion who allows us to simply get lost in the moment, enjoy his stunning exhibition of sprinting and for nine and a bit seconds forget all the double-standards and double-dealing."

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