LONDON – He’s back on top.
Faster than you can say, “Have a nice day and I hope to see you soon” 10 times at a normal pace, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt reclaimed his 100-meter Olympic title on Sunday.
With a burst of speed over the final 40 meters, “Lightning Bolt” zoomed to the finish line in breathtaking fashion, clocking an exhilarating 9.63 seconds, the second-fastest time in history, to defend his Olympic title.
The Olympic Stadium crowd roared with delight as he crossed the finish line.
The 25-year-old Jamaican soaked up the fun, the laughter, the standing ovations and the warm applause.
“It was wonderful,” he said of the capacity crowd. “I knew it was going to be like this. There wasn’t any doubt in my mind it was going to be like this.”
Bolt broke his own Olympic record (9.69 seconds, set on Aug. 16, 2008, in Beijing) and nearly equaled his world record of 9.58 set a year later at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Berlin.
Jamaican teammate and training partner Yohan Blake, the reigning world champ in the 100 who defeated Bolt in both the 100 and 200 at the Jamaican Olympic Trials, which Bolt called a huge “wakeup call” for him, earned the silver by matching his personal-best time of 9.75 seconds. American Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Athens Games gold medalist, who later served a four-year doping ban, took the bronze in 9.79, also a personal best.
Americans Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey finished fourth and fifth in 9:80 and 9.88, respectively. The Netherlands’ Churandy Martina, a Curacao native, was sixth (9.94), followed by Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson (9.98) and Jamaica’s Asafa Powell (11.99, slowed down by a groin injury).
Bolt’s 196-cm frame is much taller than the typical sprinter’s. His long limbs are not ideal for the mechanics of racing off the starting block to begin the race, but he more than compensates for that with incredible closing speed.
“My coach (Glen Mills) told me to stop worrying about the start and concentrate on the end because that’s my best,” Bolt said, describing the tactics that worked to his advantage on Sunday.
Bolt now prepares for the 200, which begins Tuesday morning. The final is slated for Thursday evening.
After the now-infamous false start that disqualified him from the 100 final in Daegu, South Korea, at worlds last summer, Bolt regained his place as the sprint king once again.
“He is the fastest man in the world and I’ve got a silver medal. What more can I ask for?” Blake, 22, said after the race. “To be the second-fastest man in the world behind Bolt is an honor.”
Martina said Bolt fulfilled expectations, doing what all competitors and observers worldwide had prepared to see.
“I knew he would be fast,” Martina said. “It was expected. . . . I knew he was here to defend his title, but anything could have happened in a final.”
True, indeed there was only 0.25 seconds separating the top five finishers.
“You have to run a season’s best or better out there to compete in a field like that,” said Bahamas sprinter Derrick Atkins after the semifinal heats.
In the final round, Bolt, the man in Lane 7, looked hungry to win and never took his eyes off the target. And he can thank Blake for helping make the end result possible.
“He works harder than me,” Bolt said, “but I knew what I needed to do and I have great talent. He (Blake) will do better next time because he was a little bit stressed this time.”
Also Sunday, Koji Murofushi earned the bronze medal in the men’s hammer with a season-best throw of 78.71 meters on his third attempt to give Japan its first athletics medal of the London Games. The 37-year-old defending world champion and 2004 Athens Games gold medalist tossed the hammer more than 78 meters on three of his six attempts.
Eighteen-time national champion Murofushi’s third attempt moved him into third place in the standings and he remained there until the end of the competition. Slovakia’s Primoz Kozmus, the 2008 gold medalist, settled for the silver with a top throw of 79.36 meters. Hungary’s Krisztian Pars captured the gold (80.59 meters on his third attempt).
“(This) may be my last Olympics, so I’m happy how my performance went,” Murofushi said. “Thanks to everyone for supporting me.
“Of course at this age it’s very difficult to be in great condition. . . . I’m so proud of myself today.”
Winning domestically is something Murofushi has done for his entire adult life. His latest medal, however, has a special meaning, as he has reached out to those affected by the March 11, 2011, disasters in northern Japan.
Murofushi told several hundred reporters that he “dedicates this medal to the people in the Tohoku area.”
Sanya Richards-Ross of the United States won the women’s 400 in 49.55 seconds. Great Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu earned the silver in 49.70 and American DeeDee Trotter nabbed the bronze in 49.72.
“The win is impossible to describe,” said Richards-Ross, who collected the bronze in the event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “I worked so hard for that and I prepared for this moment over and over for the last four years.
“I just fought all the way to the end.”
Ohuruogu, a daughter of Nigerian immigrants who grew up in East London, couldn’t defend her Olympic title.
“I was stunned,” Ohuruogu said, reacting to a second-place finish. “I was heartbroken actually to lose a title like that, but Sanya ran a good race. I’m happy with what I’ve done. It could have been worse. The line came too soon. I thought, ‘it’s gone, it’s gone.’ ”
Kazakhstan’s Olga Rypakova emerged as the women’s triple jump champion at 14.98 meters.
Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya won the men’s 3,000 steeplechase for the second time, adding to the gold he grabbed at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Kemboi finished the race in 8 minutes, 18.56 seconds, with France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad the runnerup in 8:19.08. Kenya’s Abel Kiprop Mutai received the bronze (8:19.73). Ethiopia’s Roba Gari was fourth in 8:20.00 and Kenya’s Brimin Kiprop Kipruto placed fifth.
“It felt super to win the only gold medal for my country here in London,” Kemboi said.
Bolt was equally excited, but acknowledged he’s only halfway to his personal goal of two individual gold medals at the London Games. He also aims to lead Jamaica to the 4×100 title, which it won in Beijing.
He said defending his 100 title was “the first step” to cementing his status as an Olympic legend, which he considers his top priority. Repeating as 200 champ is also necessary, he said.
Did he run a perfect race on Sunday night?
Bolt refuses to make that statement.
“I’m not even going to say yes,” he said, “because I know my coach will say no.”
Mills will continue to push his prized pupil to work even harder, reminding the 25-year-old he still hasn’t reached his prime as an elite athlete.
Bolt understands this now.
“Sometimes you lose sight of what’s going on around you,” he admitted. “Yeah, you know what it takes to get there, but sometimes you lose sight because everybody is praising you, everybody thinks you’re great and you’re doing well.”
In order to keep his focus, Bolt is sticking to his comfortable routine.
On the day he reclaimed the title of World’s Fastest Man, for instance, he ate plantains, hash browns and fruit for breakfast, and munched on a chicken and vegetable sandwich wrap from McDonald’s. He also drank apple juice and settled for rice with chicken and pork for lunch.
“I didn’t eat as much (as usual) because I didn’t want to feel full,” he said.
Bolt ran 9.87 seconds in the 100 semis at 7:53 p.m., a little more than two hours before the most highly anticipated event of the London Games.
The rest is history.