Bolt defends 100 title, sets Olympic record
LONDON — The fastest human in the history of civilization wasn't about to relinquish his reign.
Usain Bolt, the prodigious Jamaican sprinter, added to his already formidable legend by defending his title in the Olympic men's 100 meters Sunday night in a Games-record 9.63 seconds. That was a hair off Bolt's world-record 9.58 set in 2009, but better than his winning 9.69 at the Beijing Olympics.
Bolt and Carl Lewis are the only men to win the 100 in consecutive Olympics, and Bolt is the first to do so at the finish line. Lewis was awarded his second gold in 1988 retroactively after Canada's Ben Johnson had his stripped away for doping.
Perhaps no one summed up the achievement better than Richard Thompson, the seventh-place finisher from Trinidad and Tobago: “There's no doubt he's the greatest sprinter of all-time now.”
At least some doubt had crept in, largely because countryman Yohan Blake won the World Championship last summer and had run better than Bolt in the months leading up to the Olympics. But Blake took silver here at 9.75, the United States' Justin Gatlin bronze at 9.79.
Bolt after some unspectacular times in preliminary and semifinal heats, had a sluggish start in the final, too. But a spectacular burst at about the 40-meter mark — something only Bolt can deliver — began the pullaway from the pack.
This wasn't like Beijing. There wasn't any showboating, no arms flailing, no looking over the shoulder. That was at least a small concession on Bolt's part that, even though he was winking playfully just before the start, he took this challenge terribly seriously.
Right to the closing lean at the line.
He did keep sprinting to celebrate with the crowd and rolled to the ground to kiss the track. But he spoke far less flamboyantly about his race than someone who had declared he'd become a “living legend” in London.
“I executed,” Bolt said. “I stopped worrying about the start. I think I got stuck in the blocks for a little bit. But the end is what's important.”
Of his doubters, which included Lewis and 2000 champion Maurice Greene predicting Blake would win: “I don't need to say anything. I just said it all on the track. All people can do is talk. When it comes to championships, it's all about business for me.”
Of his emotions amid the 80,000 standing, cheering spectators inside Olympic Stadium: “I loved the crowd, and I'm extremely happy. When I ran in the first round, I felt like I can do this.”
Bolt, 27, has no intention of stopping racing, but it remains to be seen if he can compete in Rio in 2016.
He might draw inspiration in that regard from Gatlin, 30, who was the 2004 Olympic champion and returning from a four-year doping ban.
“It feels good, regardless of what I've gone through,” Gatlin said. “I did this for the people who supported me. They pushed me through.”
There had been rain in the morning, but it subsided in plenty of time for the race. Speculation that the track would play fast was buoyed by the figures.
Blake and Gatlin set personal bests, and the only one of the eight runners who failed to finish below 10 seconds was Asafa Powell, who pulled up with an injury halfway through.
Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.