The Olympics brings the world's sportswriters together in the one place every four years. People who've been around a bit; people who think they've seen it all.

Well, they've never before seen anything like what they saw at Rio's Estdio Olimpico Joao Havelange on day three of the Olympic athletics meet. No-one has.

And no matter how experienced those sportswriters are; how many things they've seen and written about, it's a fair bet that not one of them managed to find the right words to describe Usain Bolt's third consecutive Olympic 100m gold medal.

Amazing, incredible, astonishing? Just letters put in a certain order. Bolt deserves far more.
We noticed him first in Beijing eight years ago. He'd been in Athens too, but he was just a 17 year-old kid then, coming back from injury and maybe a little overawed.


Four years later, in Beijing, he was ready. We all mentioned him in our preview copy. We knew he was quick and that he'd be there or thereabouts, but he wasn't Usain Bolt then, just a runner in a race.

Twenty years earlier, before the 100m at the Seoul Olympics, experienced athletics writer Mike Hurst had found himself on a plane sitting next to drug-fuelled Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson.

He asked him how he thought his showdown with the USA's Carl Lewis would pan out.
"The gun go off, the race be over," Johnson said.

It wouldn't be right to say that Bolt runs his races like that. The gun go off, he pushes himself up off the blocks like someone waking up after an afternoon nap. He rubs his eyes, stretches a bit and then those long legs of his start eating up the track.

By the halfway mark those legs are pushing forward so fast that they leave the rest of his body behind, like the Roadrunner in the cartoons.

By the 75m mark he's usually in front, so he looks around, puts the brakes on a bit and enjoys the moment.

After we saw it for the first time in Beijing we walked back from the Birdcage still shaking our heads in amazement. When we got to the office the photographic editor was going through the pics on his computer screen. He got to the front-on view.

"Hang on," he said. "What's this?"

We crowded around and saw it. His shoelace was undone.

That was the night he became Usain Bolt.

By the time he got to London he was everywhere. At the airport, on buses, cabs, billboards. You couldn't move without seeing Usain Bolt - and he loved it. When he won the photographers crowded around him like seagulls on a chip. He took a camera from one and starting taking pictures of them.

On the last night of competition, local hero Mo Farah was walking across the track after a medal ceremony. Bolt was getting into place for a relay. As if it had been scripted, they spotted each other and Bolt did Farah's signature Mobot move as Farah did the Lightning Bolt in reply. It felt like the stadium might lift up and float to heaven.

But Rio is different. He is older, slower. It is like there must have been more than one of him, he's been pictured in so many cities in so many magazines over the past four years. Surely it must have taken its toll.

And lurking with intent in the background is the coyote to Bolt's roadrunner: Justin Gatlin.
Even his name sounds like a weapon. Gatlin, 100m Olympic champion the year Bolt arrived in Athens as an unknown and went home the same way.

Gatlin, who twice was suspended for testing positive to drugs. Gatlin, who represents everything that the public and clean athletes don't want the Olympics to be.

A week earlier, the USA's 19 year-old swimming gold medallist Lily King said that her countryman Gatlin should not be at the Olympics.

"I don't even know who Lily King is," Gatlin said when asked for comment.

Not that it matters now. In 9.81 seconds, Usain Bolt made Justin Gatlin irrelevant.

If the Olympics is theatre, the 100m final is grand opera; soaring overtures, gripping themes and subplots of hope, triumph, despair. Heroes and villains and breathtaking resolution in the final scene.

The players in this performance come out one by one. With so much focus on the two leads it almost comes as a surprise that there are nine runners.

Gatlin comes out third. The boos echo around the stadium. Five more runners are introduced and then the words: "Representing Ja-maic-ca ..." We don't hear any more. The cheers are too loud, and besides if you have to be told, you shouldn't be here.

He walks out, smiling, having fun and feeding off the fact that we're having fun too. This is a party and the other eight runners haven't been invited.

He's not wearing the same predominately yellow uniform as his teammate Yohan Blake in lane four. His is black with a yellow slash. Different, striking. Like the man.

The others are stiff with anticipation. Bolt walks down the track a little and waves to the stands and claps above his head like a rock star asking for the crowd to sing along to his latest hit. They don't need much encouragement.

He tests his blocks and jogs slowly down the track then stops, looking at the finish line, as if thinking, "It's just down there, man, not too far." Then he turns and stretches his arms straight out, like Rio's most famous symbol. Bolt the Redeemer.

"On your marks ..."

The gun go off.

He wipes the sleep from his eyes, has a bit of a stretch and those big legs start eating up the metres just like they did in Beijing, like they did in London.

The roadrunner catches the coyote 15 metres from the finish line.


The race be over.

Amazing, incredible, astonishing ... no, there's only two words that can capture what we just saw.

Usain Bolt.