Usain Bolt sealed an unprecedented "triple-triple” on Friday, leading Jamaica to victory in the 4x100m relay and officially bringing down the curtain on a phenomenal Olympic career with a record-equaling ninth gold medal.
The 29-year-old superstar, widely seen as the greatest sprinter in history, bounded over the line in 37.27sec to trigger an eruption of adulation in the Olympic Stadium.
Japan's quartet took a surprise silver in 37.60sec while Canada took bronze after the United States, who crossed in third, were later disqualified.
The victory saw Bolt complete a third consecutive clean sweep of the 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles following his six gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Games.
His ninth gold medal drew him level with Paavo Nurmi, the Finn who dominated distance running in the early 20th century, and American sprinter and long jumper Carl Lewis as the most successful Olympic track and field athletes.
"I'm going to stay up late and have fun," Bolt said. "I never knew this would happen when I started out," added Bolt, who lingered on the track after his lap of honour, kneeling down to kiss the finish line as chants of "Usain Bolt, Usain Bolt" echoed from the stands.
— Usain St. Leo Bolt (@usainbolt) August 20, 2016
"There you go, I am the greatest," Bolt told reporters. "I am just relieved. It's happened. I am just happy, proud of myself. It's come true. The pressure is real. I look at it as an accomplishment."
For Bolt, who will retire in 2017, the relay gold was the final act of an incredible Olympic career that redefined athletics and often left commentators scrambling to find a new vocabulary of superlatives as each new milestone came and went.
Bolt will now set off a year-long victory tour that will culminate with the World Championships in London next August.
Descripcin grfica de la participacin de Usain Bolt pic.twitter.com/IFAzOv8Yzp
— Salvador Sanchez (@lizardrooney) August 20, 2016
The Jamaican is preparing to exit with athletics fighting to restore credibility after a year dominated by doping and corruption scandals.
International Association of Athletics Federations president Sebastian Coe is adamant however that athletics will endure, despite the loss of its most charismatic leading man.
In an interview with AFP on Friday, Coe said Bolt had transcended his sport in a way that was comparable to boxing icon Muhammad Ali.
"The man is a genius," Coe said. "There's been nobody since Muhammad Ali who's got remotely near to what this guy has done in terms of grabbing the public imagination."
Devastating knowing we'll never see Bolt compete at the olympics again truly one of a kind. The best there ever will bex9
— Ryan Simpson (@Simpson_015) August 20, 2016
However, Coe argued that just as a new generation of boxers emerged after Ali's retirement, so track and field would unearth new personalities after Bolt.
"It's a massive gap, but it's not a gap that is insuperable," Coe said.
"You're not going to fill that gap overnight, but there are great, talented athletes out there."