Tonight we might be saying goodbye to both the fastest man on earth and to one of the most impressive female track-and-field athletes of all time.
Usain Bolt, the 29-year-old Jamaican sprinting all-star, announced his intention to retire after the 2016 Rio Olympics way back in 2013. And it seems the world-record-crushing Olympian is sticking to his word, despite encouragement from his coach to keep looking to the future. “My coach always says, ‘Usain, you can always go to the 2020 Olympics if you want,’” Bolt told Newsweek, “So this is why he tells me to stop talking about retirement and just take it a year at a time.”
While his coach may not be too keen on Bolt retiring before the 2020 Games, the sprinter seems to be ready to say goodbye. Last night after winning his second gold medal of the Rio Games and eighth career gold medal, he told reporters he thought he raced well but would have loved to go faster. He also said that his “body didn’t respond” when he was running the straight and that felt he was “getting old.”
While Bolt may have been slightly disappointed with his performance last night in the men’s 200m, the crowds were ecstatic—and Bolt has already made history at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Coming into the Games as the first man in the modern Olympics to win six gold medals for sprinting (since London in 2012), in Rio Bolt became the first track athlete to win three gold medals in one race, which he did in both the 100m dash and the 200m sprint.
Tonight, at 9:35 pm ET, Bolt will compete in the men’s 4x100m relay for Jamaica.
This event may very well be his last Olympic performance and, perhaps, the end of a legendary track and field career. After last night’s final, Bolt reiterated that he would not be returning to the Olympic arena for any more races after Friday night’s relay.
“I’ve proven to the world I’m the greatest. This is what I came here for,” Bolt proclaimed. “That’s what I’m doing. This is why I said this is my last Olympics—I can’t prove anything else.”
But Bolt’s exit will not be the only Olympic farewell of the evening. American runner Allyson Felix may also be performing in her second-to-last Olympic event tonight— the women’s 4x100m relay.
Felix, 30, has won more world championship gold medals than any other U.S. track and field athlete. She also holds seven Olympic medals (four gold), along with 19 other medals from international competition.
In the London Olympics, Felix became the first female U.S. track athlete to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Games since 1988.
Felix remains as gracious and humble as ever in spite of incredible success and worldwide recognition. Her motto? “Medals are won in training.”
After being sidelined by an ankle injury and failing to qualify for the 200m sprint by 0.01 seconds in Olympic trials, some worried that Felix would make it through the Rio Olympics without any medals at all.
Felix crushed those doubts Monday night, making history in Rio by winning the silver medal in the 400m race. Earning her seventh career medal, Felix became the most decorated American woman in Olympic track and field history.
But she is still fighting for what may be her last ever chance to win another Olympic gold medal.
Felix faced another challenge yesterday when, after being bumped by a Brazilian runner during the second leg of the 4x100m relay qualifying race and losing the baton, the American women were forced to race on an empty track for a second chance to qualify for the final.
It was a controversial and unprecedented scenario, but the American women made the best of it, qualifying with the fastest time for the final. After the race, Felix told reporters she felt “very relieved” because she “wasn’t sure how a situation like that played out. I have never been in that situation before, but I am happy that we got a shot at it.”
Tonight, at 9:15pm ET, Felix will race the second leg of the 4x100m relay, praying another mishap doesn’t cost her the chance to earn that Rio gold medal she has been eyeing for years.
If the American women qualify for the 4x400m relay at 7:40 pm ET tonight, which they are expected to do, Felix will likely be one of the four competitors running in the final Saturday night at 9:00 pm ET.
Watch the women’s and men’s 4x100m relays tonight at 9:15 and 9:35 pm ET.
How to Live Stream the 2016 Rio Olympics Men and Women’s 4x100m Relays:
NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app will be live streaming coverage of the Games for pay TV subscribers via TV Everywhere. You can download the NBC Sports app to your Android TV, Apple TV, Xbox or Roku or use the iOS, Android or Windows Phone apps.
You can also live stream Olympic matches from NBC here.