RIO DE JANEIRO — While the competition strains through the finish line, Usain Bolt’s races here at the Summer Games have more closely resembled home run trots.
You’d say he was going through the motions, if the motions entailed continuing a run of dominance across two of track and field’s marquee events, the men’s 100 and 200 meters, at a level unmatched in the sport’s history.
So as other runners grit their teeth and struggle for the stripe, Bolt looks like an office worker jogging for last seat on the rush-hour bus — he needs to get there, but he’s not worried; if any rival gets too close, he’ll just pull away.
Bolt won his 200 heat with a time of 20.28 seconds to advance into Wednesday’s semifinals, a discipline he’s dominated since first exploding onto the international stage at the 2008 Beijing Games.
And he did so in his own inimitable style: Bolt won the qualifier by the mark just past the halfway mark and cruised toward the finish line, glancing over his left and right shoulders, at complete ease and in total control.
I felt that it was OK,” Bolt said of his race. “I didn’t really run that hard so I can’t really say.”
“I just came in to qualify and that’s it.”
His execution? Only fine, he said. Was he tired? Yes, Bolt added, but with the semifinals on Wednesday and the finals on Thursday, he’ll have time to rest.
His execution was average; he was tired. He didn’t run hard — and left his competition in the dust.
“Anything is possible, you know? Whatever happens I accept it,” said Jamaica’s Nickel Ashmeade.
Thanks for playing, world — the line for silver in the 200 starts behind the sport’s biggest star.
Bolt’s competition is seemingly making a concerted effort not to pay attention to the 29-year-old Jamaican, yet there’s really no way for the rest of the field to ignore the elephant in the room: Bolt is looming, as he is always is, and his performances here in Rio have done little to usurp his status as the world’s undisputed king of the track.