Bolt targets third sprint sweep to close Olympic chapter

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Usain Bolt is keenly aware of the narrative of his extraordinary career and, for the fastest man who ever lived, the only fitting way to close its Olympic chapter is with a third sprint sweep at next month's Rio Games.

Bolt is already assured of a place not only in the pantheon of his own sport but alongside the likes of Muhammad Ali, Pele, Michael Jordan and Jack Nicklaus - men whose names alone conjure up the notion of sporting excellence.

It is company the confident Jamaican covets and he is determined to concrete his legacy by capping eight years of sprint dominance by defending his 100, 200 and 4x100 meters relay titles in what he has said will be his final Olympics.

SEE MORE: Check out everything you need to know about Rio 2016

Barring injury or mishap, Bolt will run in his ninth Olympic final in the relay at the Rio Olympic Stadium on Aug. 20, the day before he turns 30.

He ran his first final in Beijing five days before his 22nd birthday, exploding into the consciousness of sports fans around the world by coasting to 100 meters victory in a world record time of 9.69 seconds with one shoelace undone.

Since that balmy August night Bolt has proved unbeatable in major championships, winning 11 world titles and sweeping the three sprint titles at the Beijing and London Olympics.

The one title he missed came at the 2011 worlds in Daegu when he was disqualified from the 100 final.

Then, some of the conjecture over his false start focused on possible jitters caused by a lack of fitness but he blew away those theories with victories in the 200 and the relay.

Bolt has since lived with, and confounded, the injury narrative ahead of two major championships - a sore hamstring hampered him before London and a back problem similarly limited his outings before the 2015 world championships.

GREAT MOMENTS FROM THE SUMMER OLYMPICS:

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Great moments from the Summer Olympics
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Great moments from the Summer Olympics
Mary Lou Retton at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Calif., Aug. 1, 1984. (AP Photo)
Mildred Didrikson of Dallas, Texas at the Olympic Stadium Los Angeles July 31, 1932 when she sent the javelin soaring 143 feet 4 inches to better by more than 11 feet the former mark held by E. Braumiller of Germany. (AP Photo)
Babe Didrikson, second from right, leads her USA teammate, Evelyne Hall, right, over the last hurdle to win the women's 80-meter hurdles at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, August 4, 1932. Didrikson's time of 11.7 seconds set a world and Olympic record. (AP Photo)
Alice Coachman of Tuskegee about to snap the tape to win the 100 meter run in the Woman's National AAU Track and Field championships, Aug. 5, 1946. Coming up a close second, left, is Stella Walsh, running for the Polish-Olympic WAC, Cleveland. (AP Photo)
High jumper Dick Fosbury of the United States is shown in October 1968, debuting his celebrated "Fosbury Flop," during the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. "The Flop" revolutionized high jumping, and Fosbury went on to win the gold medal with a leap of 7 feet and 4 and 1/4 inches. (AP Photo)
Bob Beamon astonished the world in October1968 when he leaped 29 feet 2-1/2 in., about two feet more than the existing long jump record, to capture a gold medal in the Olympic Games in Mexico City.(AP PHOTO)
Bob Beamon of El Paso, Texas digs his feet into the sand pit after a record-shattering long jump of 8.90 meters on his first attempt in the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, Friday Oct. 18, 1968. (AP PHOTO)
Bob Beamon is shown in his record-breaking long jump that won him a gold medal on October 18, 1968 during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. (AP Photo)
Heavyweight boxer George Foreman is seen during his bout with Russia's Iones Chepulis during their Olympic finals in Mexico City, Oct. 27, 1968. Foreman captured the gold medal. (AP Photo)
American heavyweight boxer George Foreman of Pleasanton, California, waves an American flag after winning the Olympic gold medal at the Mexico City games on Oct. 27, 1968. Foreman won by a technical knockout in the second round against Iones Chepulis of Russia. (AP Photo/Kurt Strumpf)
Winners of the heavyweight division of Olympic boxing, (from left to right) silver medalist Ionas Chepulis of Russia, American gold medalist George Foreman, and joint bronze medalists, Giorgio Bambini of Italy and Joaquin Rocha of Mexico are seen in the ring after medal presentations, October 27, 1968 at the Olympic Games in Mexico City. (AP Photo)
Ulrike Meyfarth, 16, of West Germany goes over the bar at 1.92 meters to win the world record and win a gold medal in the 1972 Olympic Games women's high jump event at the Munich Olympic Stadium, Sept. 4, 1972. (AP Photo)
Smiling happily is Ulrike Meyfarth, 16, of West Germany after winning the gold medal in the high jump for women in the 1972 Munich Olympics. She jumped 1.92 metres, setting a new Olympic record. (AP Photo)
Nadia Comaneci from Romania performs an excellent balanced jump on the horse vault during compulsory events and optional exercises, July 18,1976 in Montreal at the Summer Olympic Games. (AP Photo)
Romania's top gymnast Nadia Comaneci performs on the balance beam on July 18, 1976 during the Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada. (AP Photo)
Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, 14, performs a flip on the balance beam en route to a gold medal in the event during the Olympic Games in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on July 22, 1976. (AP Photo/Stephanie Maze)
Romania's Nadia Comaneci, 14, performs her part of the balance beam routine Thursday July 23, 1976 in Olympic competition in Montreal. This multiple exposure study points out the grace of her movements, leading to a gold medal and a perfect score in the event. (AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis)
Sugar Ray Leonard in action against Ulrich Beyer July 27,1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Leonard later won the Gold Medal in the light Welterweight class (140 lbs). (AP Photo)
American boxer Sugar Ray Leonard raises his arms in victory after defeating Ulrich Beyer of East Germany to qualify for the final bout, at the XXI Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada, on July 27, 1976. (AP Photo)
Sugar Ray Leonard of Palmer Park, Md., right, throws a right at Kazmier Szczerba of Poland during the light welterweight boxing match at the XXI Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on July 29, 1976. Leonard won the match. (AP Photo)
Soviet world champion gymnast Aleksandr Dityatin swings up during his performance on the horizontal bars that earned him a 9.95 score during men's team gymnastics event Thursday, July 24, 1980 at the Moscow Olympics. The Soviet, 22, became the first man ever to score a perfect ten for the vault and won the gold medal in the all-around category of the event. (AP Photo)
Alexander Dityatin of USSR performs on the rings during the apparatus final of the Olympics, July 25, 1980 in Moscow. He took the gold medal with a score of 19.875. (AP Photo/Maze)
Joan Benoit shown running at the Olympic women's marathon in Los Angeles. She won the gold medal. (AP Photo/Ron Heflin)
Freeport, Maine's Joan Benoit, carries an American flag after finishing the first-ever women's marathon in the 1984 Summer Games August 5, 1984 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The 27-year-old Benoit finished the 26-mile, 385-yard distance in 2.24:52. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami)
U.S. runner Joan Benoit of Freeport, Maine, waves the American flag on Aug 5, 1984 after her gold medal win in the women's marathon that concluded in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
U.S. runner Joan Benoit of Freeport, Maine, waves the American flag on Aug 5, 1984 after her gold medal win in the women's marathon that concluded in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
Romania's Ecaterina Szabo, who is a favorite for a gold medal at the Summer Olympics, is pictured at Stadtallendorf on July 5, 1984, during her team's gymnastic contest vs. West Germany. (AP Photo/Kurt Strumpf)
Romania's Ecaterina Szabo, is shown July 30, 1984 during balance beam where she finished second to teamate Simona Pakea at the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles. (AP Photo)
Mary Lou Retton of team USA is shown during her perfect performance in the floor exercise in the Olympic individual all-around finals in Los Angeles, Calif., on Aug. 3, 1984 during the Summer Olympics. Retton edged out Ecaterina Szabo of Romania for the gold medal. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
Mary Lou Retton of Fairmount, Va. leaps in the air after scoring a perfect 10 on the vault in her final routine to win the women's all-around gymnastics gold medal at the Olympics in Los Angeles, Calif., Friday, Aug. 4, 1984. (AP Photo)
Mary Lou Retton, foreground, with her gold medal and Ecaterina Szabo with her silver medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Calif., Aug. 5, 1984. (AP Photo)
Mary Lou Retton celebrates her balance beam score at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles on Aug. 3, 1984. Retton, 16, became the first American woman ever to win an individual Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
American gymnast Mary Lou Retton on the uneven bars at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Calif., Aug. 5, 1984. (AP Photo)
American gymnast Mary Lou Retton celebrates after a victory at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Calif., Aug.12, 1984. (AP Poto)
Mary Lou Retton of the USA beams after winning the gold medal in Olympics individual all-around gymnastics competition Aug. 3, 1984. (AP Photo)
American gymnast Mary Lou Retton celebrates after a victory at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Calif., Aug.12, 1984. (AP Poto)
Mary Lou Retton, of the U.S.A., performs on the balance beam during the women's gymnastics individual all-around finals at the XXIII Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Calif., on Aug. 3, 1984. (AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis)
American gymnast Mary Lou Retton during her balance beam routine at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Calif., Aug. 3, 1984. (AP Photo)
USA's Michael Jordan sails high above teammate Magic Johnson knocking away a shot during the first half of their preliminary round basketball game with Croatia at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona Monday, July 27, 1992. (AP Photo/Susan Ragan)
The USA's Magic Johnson drives the court against Croatia's Drazen Petrovic during the First half of their preliminary round basketball game at the XXV Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Monday, July 27, 1992. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
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This year, Bolt was forced to skip the Jamaican Olympic trials because of another hamstring injury but his rivals, chastened perhaps by experience, have no doubt he will be at his best in Rio.

Former world champion Tyson Gay described the injury scares as a "tradition", while Justin Gatlin said it was all part of the "crazy stuff" of an Olympic year.

"On the eve of the Olympics we'll all be debating whether he can win. And then he will win," American 400 meters great Michael Johnson said.

GATLIN THREAT

Gatlin, as he was before Bolt's triple world championship triumph in Beijing last year, is shaping as the biggest threat to the Jamaican's monopoly on the Olympic sprint titles.

The 34-year-old American's two doping convictions have lent the air of a morality play to the battle for sprint supremacy between the pair.

Bolt's pristine doping record and profile have see him cast as the savior of his sport as it battles the turmoil unleashed by a string of doping and corruption scandals.

However brilliant, Bolt knows he cannot "save" his sport, and is content instead to ensure his own legacy before he heads into retirement after next year's world championships in London.

His form indicates Bolt might not be in position to challenge the world records of 9.58 and 19.19 seconds he ran to win the 100 and 200 at the Berlin world championships in 2009.

But, as Gatlin said at the U.S. trials when discussing the Jamaican's injury problems, Bolt has made a habit of making the extraordinary ordinary:

"The mystery of the Olympics is in the air. It is full of dreams and sometimes dreams don't come true. But come on, man, he's Usain."

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