August 22, 2008 4:52 pm

Bolt wins 3rd gold but Jamaica misses sweep

Usain Bolt again set the Bird’s Nest stadium alight yesterday, but this time with a little help from his compatriots.

The 22 year old completed an extraordinary hat-trick of sprint gold medals and world records when the Jamaican men’s sprint team stormed to victory in the 4x100m relay final.

With a team that included Bolt, the Olympic champion and world record holder in both the 100m and 200m, and Asafa Powell, the former world 100m record holder, a new mark in the relay was always a possibility.

But so was dropping the baton – as both the US men’s and women’s teams did in the semi-finals – and as the Jamaican women did in their final an hour before the men’s event yesterday. Yet that error put only a temporary blemish on the islanders’ impressive sprint record at these Olympics, for the men proceeded to take the world record apart.

In an event improved by hundredths of a second, they clocked 37.10sec, taking three-tenths off the former mark, achieved by the US team at the 1993 world championships in Stuttgart. The runners-up yesterday, Trinidad & Tobago, were almost a second behind, and the unfancied Japanese took the bronze.

In the women’s relay, the Russians picked up the pieces, winning in 42.31sec, with an exultant Belgium team taking silver in a national record of 42.54sec. Nigeria achieved third place in 43.04sec.

The women’s 5,000m could not have been in greater contrast. Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia won a funereally paced race in 15min 41.40sec, thus becoming the first woman to do the 5,000m and 10,000m double at an Olympics.

But it was mighty hard to enjoy, with none of her rivals having the sense or the courage to try to run the legs off a potentially tired woman who had won the longer race in the world’s second-fastest time of 29min 54.66sec. Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey was second, as in the 10,000m, and Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar was third.

Brian Clay of the US won the decathlon with 8,791 points, well ahead of Andrei Krauchenko of Belarus and Leonel Suarez of Cuba.

Pole vaulter Steve Hooker of Australia ended the night’s entertainment with an Olympic record of 5.96m, having secured his country’s Australia’s first gold in the stadium by clearing 5.90m on his final attempt.

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