Bolt’s challenge in the homestretch was getting the world record — just about the only distinction he hadn’t earned, or proclaimed himself deserving of, this week.
With a furious run through the line that left Bailey looking overmatched, Bolt strode home in 36.84 seconds, knocking 0.20 off the world mark he and his Jamaican teammates set at the 2008 Summer Games. And he did it without striking a single pose.
“I was smiling after the race,” Bolt said. “I was running really hard. I was really focused on running as fast as possible, because we really wanted the world record. . . . The fans were happy about the world record, so they forgave me for that.”
Bolt also said: “It’s just a wonderful end to a wonderful week.”
The U.S. team of Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Bailey could take consolation in this: Their silver-medal finish in 37.04 broke the American record for the second straight night and matched Jamaica’s previous world mark.
“We broke our American record twice,” said Gatlin, who ran the second leg of Saturday’s squad and anchored the U.S. team that broke the 19-year-old mark in the heats Friday. “That record was standing for 20 years before we touched down in London . . . I think it showed that America is getting ourselves together . . . We’re back.”
Earlier, the U.S. women had offered up a brilliant race of their own, winning the 4x400 relay gold with the fourth-best time ever and the fastest since the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul.
Their finish in 3 minutes 16.87 seconds also was the second-fastest run by a U.S. team, trailing only the 3:15.51 posted by a 1988 squad anchored by Florence Griffith-Joyner at the Seoul Summer Games, when the Soviet Union set the current mark of 3:15.15.
“I kind of felt like I was on a victory lap because they gave me such a big lead,” said Sanya Richards-Ross, the Olympic 400 champion who ran the anchor leg. “To be able to prance around the track one more time . . . it’s a great feeling.”
American Brigetta Barrett, 21, added a silver in the high jump on the last night of competition. That gave the U.S. track and field team 29 medals, well ahead of second-place Russia, which has 18, with the hope of adding one more in Sunday’s marathon. If Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi or Abdi A
bdirahman comes through in that event, that would give the U.S. team the 30 it sought after a miserable Summer Games in Beijing.
Though the United States won a respectable 23 track and field medals to lead the medal table in Beijing, it concluded those Olympics with stunning, back-to-back baton drops in the 4x100 relays that led to an overhaul of the team’s performance division and the elimination of USA Track and Field’s six-year-old relay program.