LONDON, England — While he hesitated to say he was the greatest ever sprinter, global star Usain Bolt will have a hard time convincing anyone that he doesn't belong right up there with the very best of them.
Last night in front of 80,000 expectant fans in the Olympic Stadium and billions all over the globe, he destroyed one of the best fields ever assembled for a 100m final with a sublime run to retain his Olympic men's 100m title, with a new Olympic record 9.63 seconds, just short of his World Record 9.58 seconds.
He was pushed by a +1.5 metres per second wind, winning by a gigantic stride.
Bolt's second best time dispelled all doubts or speculation about his form and abilities as he dragged training partner and IAAF World Champion Yohan Blake to a silver medal as the latter equalled his personal best 9.75 seconds. American Justin Gatlin was third in a new personal best 9.79 seconds, which reduced American teammate Tyson Gay to tears as he finished fourth in a season-best 9.80 seconds.
The gold and silver earned yesterday pushed Jamaica's medal tally to four — with two gold after Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce had retained her 100m the night before, one silver and a bronze. Jamaica are now second behind Great Britain in track and field and up eight places to 20th overall in the Games.
Bolt also became the first man after Carl Lewis in 1992 to retain the 100m title and said this one was sweeter given the circumstances and doubts about his form after he was beaten twice by Blake at the Jamaican Trials over a month ago.
Were it not for an injury to Asafa Powell who limped home in 11.99 seconds and left him bent over in pain and obvious disappointment yards from the finish line as the world's attention was glued to the celebrating Bolt, the race would be the first ever in history to see all eight men under 10 seconds.
American Ryan Bailey equalled his personal best 9.88 seconds for fifth, Churandy Martina was sixth in 9.94 seconds after setting a new personal best 9.91 seconds in the semi-finals, while Trinidad's Richard Thompson was seventh in 9.98 seconds.
Members of the print media had to wait all of 90 minutes for Bolt and Blake to catch up to them but when the Olympic champion did, he said he would not call himself the greatest but was happy that finally everyone who mattered in men's sprinting was in the field.
He said his loss to Blake at Trials was good for him. "Trials was a wake-up call; Blake woke me up at Trials, he knocked at my door and said this is the Olympic year."
Asked whether this win was more special than 2008 where he won by a wider margin, he said "for me it means more because a lot of people were doubting me". "They were saying I wasn't in top form but I showed them that I am the best."
Bolt said there would be no celebrating yet as he had the 200m to prepare for. "This is my event, this is the one I really work hard in," he noted.
For his part, Blake was "grateful" for a silver medal in his first Olympic Games and said he was not disappointed. "Usain Bolt just got the better of me on the night and it is still Jamaica one, two so I am great."
Despite his wins over Bolt at Trials, Blake admitted to being "nervous as this is one of the biggest stages in the world". "After I got going, I thought I had a chance and only lost it right at the end," said an upbeat Blake.
Powell, on the other hand, was a picture of dejection. "In the semi-finals I sort of played around to take any attention off me, but in the final I stumbled a bit and that messed up my groin again as I knew I would have been up there in the medals," he said.
Bolt had sent the message loud and clear earlier in the semi-finals with a master display, dispelling any doubts about his state of readiness.
He got off to a clean start and had separated from the field by 60m before shutting down and cruising to the finish line in 9.87 seconds (+1.0m/s wind), beating American Ryan Bailey (9.96 seconds) and Trinidad's Richard Thompson, the silver medalists four years ago, who ran 10.06 seconds.