USAIN Bolt raced to 200 metres gold at the Rio Olympics but reacted with frustration at failing to challenge his world record in tough conditions.
The Jamaican flew round the bend but appeared to tie up down the home straight as he crossed the line in 19.78 seconds.
Canada’s Andre de Grasse took silver in 20.02secs, while France’s Christophe Lemaitre edged out Great Britain’s Adam Gemili for bronze in agonising fashion, with both men given the same time of 20.12s.
Bolt was never in danger of being caught, but his anger at not going quicker was clear for all to see as he crossed the line and looked at the clock.
He recovered to lap up the acclaim as he celebrated his eighth Olympic title, draped in a Jamaican flag.
Bolt, who turns 30 on Sunday, bent down to kiss the finish lane in lane six, his lane, as he completed his lap of honour before performing his signature ‘Lightning Bolt’ pose, to huge cheers.
After what is almost certainly his last appearance in a 200m at a major global championship, Bolt roared with frustration as he crossed the line, anger and disappointment etched on his face
“I wasn’t happy with the time,” he said.
“I ran hard, but when I came into the straight my body would not respond to me.
“But it’s just because I’m getting older. I’m not so young and fresh, but it’s just one of those things.
“I got the gold medal and that’s the main thing.
“It is something you work so hard for and when the moment comes you are happy and also relieved. The fact I came here and everything worked out is a brilliant feeling.”
Asked about his future in the 200m at a major championships, Bolt, who has stated his intention to retire after next year’s World Championships in London, said: “I don’t know. I said when I come to the championships in London next year it would be 100m and that’s it. My coach has a way of trying to convince me, but personally I believe this is my last one.”
It would mark the end of an era for Bolt and world sprinting – and leave an almighty void to fill. Indeed, the task of how to replace Bolt when he is gone is one of the toughest challenges facing the sport.
And, at 21, Canadian De Grasse looks best placed to inherit Bolt’s mantle – in terms of being the world’s leading sprinter if not the all-around showman and record breaker – when the Jamaican retires.
In contrast to Bolt, Gemili was “heartbroken” to miss out on a medal by so small a margin.
“I put so much into that run,” he said. “I lost my form at the end and to get so close at the end is heartbreaking. I am absolutely gutted.
Ahead of the race Bolt got the customary rapturous reception from the not quite capacity crowd inside the Olympic Stadium and looked relaxed as always. He even managed a samba on the start line.
But the rain which began to fall around 20 minutes before the start of the race had put paid to any realistic chance of him breaking his own world record of 19.19secs.
And in the end he could not get near it, with his time his slowest of any of his global 200m winning marks.
There remain, however, fewer better sights in sport than the world’s fastest man in full flight.
The three-time 100m and and 200m champion is now just one 4x100m relay run away from his Olympic ‘triple triple’ – and, in his own words, sporting immortality.
This was his last individual race at an Olympics and he wanted to go out in style.
Bolt had consistently talked up his chances of breaking the world record in Rio, sounding more determined and more confident after every race. He really wanted it, you could tell.
The 200m is the event which matters most to Bolt.
It is his favourite, the one he raced as a junior, and his love for it has not waned.
The 100m hogs the headlines. It carries the biggest sense of drama, excitement and anticipation.
It is also the one at which Bolt is, when below his best, ever so slightly vulnerable.
Over 200m, where he has more time to recover from his slow starts, he is as good as unbeatable.
This was a seventh straight global 200m title, a period of relentless domination from the age of 21 to now.
Bolt will now go for the ‘triple triple’ at 2.35am after an eventful day in qualification for the men’s and women’s 4x100m relays.
The United States qualified fastest for the final of the women’s sprint relay after seizing their second chance when running on their own in the Olympic Stadium.
The defending champions and world record holders were initially disqualified following a botched second changeover between Allyson Felix and English Gardner, but it turned out the former was impeded by the Brazilian team in the lane outside.
As a result the Brazilians were disqualified and the US, after an appeal, were offered a chance to qualify. They raced on their own at the start of Thursday evening’s session, needing to better 42.70 seconds to go through.
And Tianna Bartoletta, Felix, Gardner and Morolake Akinosun ran the quickest time of all eight teams, finishing in 41.77secs.
Officially they were a fastest loser in qualifying for tonight’s final, though, and they were drawn in lane one.
Great Britain finished second (41.93 seconds) in their heat behind Jamaica (41.79) to progress.
The US men qualified fastest (37.65) while Jamaica, without Bolt for the heat, were fifth fastest and GB seventh.