Usain Bolt proved himself the greatest sprinter in history once again as he retained his Olympic 100m title in peerless fashion.
Bolt, doubted by many after a season dogged by defeat and injury, ran the second-fastest time in history to beat his training partner Yohan Blake into silver and American Justin Gatlin into bronze.
Bolt’s 9.63secs, just 0.05secs slower than his own staggering world record, was a new Olympic best and capped a race in which seven men went under 10 seconds, with only the injured Asafa Powell failing to break that mark.
The 25-year-old said: “I felt I could do this. I was slightly worried about my start and it was not the best reaction in the world – but I stopped worrying about it and executed it and it worked.
“I said it on the track. People can talk – all they can do is talk. When it comes to championships I bring it.”
Bolt had been beaten by Blake at the Jamaican trials and clocked his slowest-ever 100m time at senior level earlier in the season.
When he admitted both his back and hamstrings were troubling him and said he was only “95%” fit there were those who felt he was more vulnerable than at any time since his Olympic gold in a world record four years ago, a feat which took him to the pinnacle of his sport.
“Those gigantic strides opened up and that was the Usain Bolt show. If we were to be picky it was a terrible start but it doesn’t matter, he just needed to be in striking distance. The guys opened up a metre on him but he was close enough, he stayed relaxed, used that stride and it was a fantastic run.”
If this was 95%, then his 2009 world record of 9.58secs could have gone had he been fully fit.
He had been worried all season about his start. But there was to be no repeat of the false start that cost him his world title and aura of invincibility at the 2011 World Championships.
His reaction time of 0.165secs was significantly better than that of both Blake and Gatlin, and although former world champion Tyson Gay got out fast, Bolt was into his long stride quickly.
At 40m Gatlin, – banned twice for doping offences, held a fractional lead but Bolt, as so many times before, was about to pull away as no other sprinter in history has.
In Beijing he had eased up in the final 15m, punching his chest with delight, but here he went hard to the line and dipped with a grimace.
Blake (9.75secs) and Gatlin (9.79secs) both set new personal bests while Gay’s 9.80secs was good enough only for fourth.