Usain Bolt defeated the fastest field in Olympic history to defend his 100-meter title at the London games.
Bolt crossed the line in an Olympic record time of 9.63 seconds, beating Jamaican compatriot Yohan Blake and American Justin Gatlin. Bolt becomes the second man after American Carl Lewis to defend the sprint title. Jamaica’s Shelley-Ann Fraser- Pryce retained her 100-meter title last night.
“It was wonderful,” Bolt said. “I knew it was going to be like this. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind it was going to be like this.”
The 25-year-old, who’s nicknamed “Lightning Bolt,” came into the event with questions about his form and fitness. He was beaten by Blake, his 22-year-old training partner, at the country’s qualifying trials in the 100 meters and his favored 200 meters, for which he’s also the defending champion and world record holder.
Bolt was as far back as sixth place at the halfway stage of the race before surging through the field. He gritted his teeth and leaned as he approached the line. In Beijing he slowed down and thumped a fist on his chest.
“My coach told me to stop worrying about the start and concentrate on the end because that’s my best,” said Bolt, the only man to run below 9.60 seconds.
The 6-foot-5 Bolt, who only took up the 100 meters as “speed work” to prepare for the 200 meters, is one of the most-recognized people in the world. His face has adorned magazine covers and billboards in London, while competitors at the games have mobbed him whenever he ventures out of his apartment at the athletes’ village.
Bolt’s sponsor Puma AG said he created media value of more than $105 million after claiming double gold and extending his world records in the 100 and 200 meters at the 2009 world championships in Berlin.
Bolt failed to retain his 100-meter title at last year’s world championships in Daegu, South Korea, after false starting. In the buildup to the London games he’s complained of a back problem and said he was 95 percent fit when he was beaten by Blake. He hadn’t raced since the June event.
Still, bookmakers William Hill rated Bolt the 8-11 favorite to retain his crown, ahead of Blake, a 7-4 shot, with Americans Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey rated 14-1. A successful $11 bet on Bolt returned $8 and the original stake.
Tonight Bolt overcome the fastest field in Olympic history. Three of his challengers -- Blake and former world record holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica and Gay, 29, of the U.S. -- are the next fastest to have run the distance.
Blake matched his fastest time, running 9.75, and Gatlin, who returned after serving a four-year doping ban, edged Gay into fourth by running a personal best 9.79. For Gay, 29, who’s second only to Bolt in the history of the world’s fastest men, the wait for an Olympic medal continues.
Gay left the track in tears.
“I tried my best and came up short,” the American told reporters.
Bolt celebrated with training partner Blake. Jamaica celebrates 50 years of independence from the U.K. tomorrow. The pair carried the Caribbean nation’s flag around the stadium before Bolt stopped to make his famous “lightning” gesture. That was greeted with chants of “Usain, Usain,” from the capacity 80,000 crowd.
To contact the reporter on this story: Tariq Panja at London’s Olympic Park at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at email@example.com