Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and Canadian Andre de Grasse set up an Olympic 200 meters showdown after crossing the line laughing together in their semi-final on Wednesday, but 100m silver medalist Justin Gatlin missed out after easing up too soon.
Bolt, now one step away from securing an incredible third Olympic sprint double, crossed in 19.78 seconds with De Grasse clocking a Canadian record 19.80.
“He was supposed to slow down,” said Bolt. “I said, ‘What are you doing, it’s a semi-final?’ But I think he wanted to push me.
“I was a bit lazy, I don’t why, but I executed and got round.”
While Bolt got away with taking his foot of the gas, Gatlin was not so fortunate. Once he realized he had eased off prematurely it was too late to recover as Dutchman Churandy Martina and Panama’s Alonso Edward swept past him.
Gatlin, who said he had been hampered by an ankle injury, finished in 20.13, enabling Briton Adam Gemili and Turkey’s Ramil Gulyev to edge him out of the fastest loser slots.
American LaShawn Merritt, who, like Gatlin, has served a doping suspension, was the only other athlete under 20 seconds and he looked strong and comfortable going into Thursday’s final.