As he ran the victory lap, and cut his familiar pose of striking an arrow, after winning a superb 100 metres race in 9.63 seconds, better than his Beijing record of 9.69s, the towering Usain Bolt did a somersault on the ground in front of one of the stands. It was symbolic.
All his critics who had doubted his ability to beat a strong field, particularly the ‘beast’ of a World champion Yohan Blake, did the same and rejoined his fan club.
In an electric atmosphere, in one of the strongest field ever assembled, Bolt scorched the track in brilliant weather to win a couple of billion hearts around the world, all over again. He was the fastest man on earth, no doubt.
It was the second fastest time in the world, only behind his own 9.58 that he had clocked in crowning himself as the World champion in Berlin in 2009. He joined Carl Lewis as the only ones to win the 100 metres twice in the Olympics.
“It was wonderful. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind it was going to be like this,” said a happy Bolt, who was only worried about his start, but knew that his strength lay in the finish.
“I slipped in the blocks. I don’t have the best reactions, but I secured it and that is the key,” he said.
Blake was equally strong with his finish as he matched his best of 9.75 seconds, to beat Justin Gatlin who had improved his personal best by 0.01 second with a time of 9.79 seconds for the bronze, eight years after having won the Athens gold.
It was the biggest gap between two medals in the men’s 100m event in the Olympics.
Seven of the eight came below 10 seconds, and former world record holder Asafa Powell struggled to the finish owing to an aggravated groin injury.
Bolt’s fare was the icing on the cake on an evening when American Sanya Richards-Ross wiped the bad memories of the Beijing Games to take the women’s 400m gold in 49.55 seconds, beating the defending champion Christine Ohuruogu of Britain.
Richards was the favourite in Beijing but ended up third then. It was a smart finish by Ohuruogu as she beat DeeDee Trotter of the US by 0.02 second with a time of 49.70 seconds.
“It is a life time dream. I have been waiting 20 years to do this. I had no set race strategy. So, to win the gold is just overwhelming. I have been through a lot to get here,” said Richards-Ross.
“Pressure is one of the biggest factors. You just have to stay in the moment and push through. I have learnt a lot from my competitors about how to do that,” she said.
Gold for Kemboi
Athens Games champion Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya won the 3000 metres steeplechase yet again with a time of 18 minutes 18.56 seconds, following a stunning last lap. His effort saw Kenya retaining its strong hold over the event since 1984.
Two-time European champion Mahiedine Mekhissi-Bernabbad of France won the silver in 8:19.08 overtaking Abel Mutai of Kenya who clocked 8:19.73.
“Kenya winning this medal is because it is our race,” said Kemboi, who felt sad for defending champion Kiprop Kipruto falling down during the race, which he learnt only after the race finished.
Olga Rypakova won the second athletics gold medal for Kazakhstan with a leap of 14.98 metres in women’s triple jump. It was her third jump in the final and she also had a 14.89 jump on the fifth.
Caterine Ibarguen (14.80) of Colombia beat World champion Olha Saladuha of Ukraine by one centimetre for the silver.
Rypakova, Asian record holder and Asian Games champion, had narrowly missed a medal in Beijing, and said that she felt incredible to get the gold medal.
“In Beijing it was my first competition at such a high level. I knew that I could be a candidate in London. Deep in my heart I had a secret hope of winning,” Rypakova said.
Favourite Krisztian Pars of Hungary had also missed a medal in Beijing in hammer, but won the gold this time with a throw of 80.59 metres, after having opened with a 79.14.
Defending champion Primoz Kozmus of Slovenia put up a good fare to take the silver at 79.36 metres, ahead of Athens Games champion and Asian record holder Koji Murofushi of Japan who threw 78.71 metres.
Kozmus was trying to catch Pars but was happy to beat Murofushi for the silver, even as he praised the Japanese.
“Koji is a great athlete. He won the World championship in Daegu and the Olympics in Athens. I am happy to beat him, but he is such a good person.
“He is involved in a lot of things. He fights for athletes rights. He is a great guy,” said the Slovenian.