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Bolt strikes again, winning third gold as Jamaica sets world record in 400 relay

August 22, 2008

BEIJING (AP) -- Yelling at his teammate after handing off the baton, Usain Bolt saw another world record in reach.

It was just a matter of time.

Asafa Powell took the baton from Bolt and did the honors in the anchor leg of the men's 400-meter relay Friday, finishing the race in 37.10 seconds to shatter a 16-year-old mark and bring yet another gold medal home to Jamaica.

"It's wonderful," Bolt said. "You can't explain the feeling you feel after the greatest Olympics ever."

There's no other way to define it for the 6-foot-5, 22-year-old sprinter, the likes of which the world has never seen.

Three races. Three gold medals. Three world records.

That's never happened before.

Bolt also became only the fourth man, and the first since Carl Lewis in 1984, to win all three Olympic sprint events.

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His three gold medals are exceeded in these games only by the record eight for American swimmer Michael Phelps. British cyclist Chris Hoy and Chinese gymnast Zou Kai of China also won three.

Bolt got to share his final chapter with Powell, who held the world record in the 100 for about three years before Bolt took it over in May -- then broke it again last Saturday in a hot-dogging 9.69 seconds at the Bird's Nest.

After finishing fifth in the last two Olympic 100s, Powell had the reputation as a great runner who couldn't handle pressure.

By the time he took the handoff from Bolt, his first Olympic medal was secure. It was a only a matter of chasing history. Just as Bolt had done when he ran 19.30 in the 200 to break Michael Johnson's mark, Powell drove hard to the finish, leaning at the line, and then looked at the clock.

37.10.

That was 0.3 second better than the mark first set by an American team featuring Lewis and Leroy Burrell at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and tied at the world championships a year later.

"I pushed myself to help Usain and his quest for three gold medals," Powell said.

Powell crossed 0.96 second ahead of Trinidad and Tobago's Richard Thompson -- the biggest margin in the Olympics since 1936. Japan took the bronze.

"We simply couldn't compete," said Thompson's teammate, Marc Burns.

The United States didn't qualify for the final after dropping the baton in qualifying.

America's absence from this race because of the baton mishap eliminated any real competition for the Jamaicans. But even had Tyson Gay and Co. been on the track, it's hard to imagine anyone beating a team with Bolt and Powell.

It was still a race after Nesta Carter and Michael Frater completed the first two legs. But moments after Frater handed off to Bolt, the race became a rout. And when Bolt handed off to Powell, Powell's quest became very much like Bolt's was two nights previous in the 200 -- not simply to win, but to own a slice of history.

When the race ended, Bolt greeted Powell. They hugged and found some Jamaican flags to wear around their shoulders as the familiar reggae music filled the stadium.

While Bolt finished a perfect Olympics with the relay, the Jamaican women fell one race short of only the second 6-for-6 sweep by any country in Olympic sprint history -- and only because they beat themselves.

Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart botched the handoff between the second and third legs and Jamaica didn't finish the race won by Russia. Still, nobody beat the Jamaicans in any sprint they finished at these games.

Counting a gold in the women's 400 hurdles, Jamaica has six gold medals with one day left. That's one more than the United States, which won its fifth when Bryan Clay wrapped up the decathlon title moments before the men's relay.

The United States, meanwhile, went 0-for-6 in sprints for the first time ever. The women's team also dropped the baton in qualifying.

In other action, Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia completed an unprecedented women's distance double by adding the 5,000 meters to her 10K victory.

In the long jump, Maurren Higa Maggi of Brazil won with a leap of 23 feet, 1 1/4 inches (7.04 meters). The silver medal went to Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia and the bronze to Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria, who only got into the final when Ukraine's Lyudmila Blonska was kicked out of the Olympics for doping.

"I could not believe that I was out, and when I heard last night I was in the final, it was my time," Okagbare said.

Before the long jump, Blonska won silver in the heptathlon. Her removal gives that to American Hyleas Fountain, with Russia's Tatiana Chernova moving from fourth to bronze.

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