One step closer to legendary
Gold medalist Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrates with bronze medalist Justin Gatlin of the U.S. after winning the men's 100m final.
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LONDON -- Yohan Blake of Jamaica mimicked vibrations up his chiseled arms and formed his hands into claws. American Justin Gatlin strutted toward the camera and turned around like a runway model before throwing up a salute. Not to be outdone, Usain Bolt of Jamaica, the ultimate showman, moved his right hand as if he were a DJ on a turntable. The cheers that filled Olympic Stadium provided the music.
The men who are bold enough to run the 100-meter dash have a give-and-take relationship with their fans. They do not want to leave anybody who paid hundreds of dollars to watch them disappointed, which starts with entertaining introductions.
"Quiet for the start," the PA man begged the frenzied crowd.
After a few seconds, many of the spectators combined for a "shhhhhhhhh."
A helicopter flew overhead. Talk about bad timing.
Random fans out of the assembled 80,000 proved once again that excited human beings don't take orders well, yelling into the cool London night.
Finally, after 46 seconds, true calm had spread.
"When you're on those blocks and the whole stadium is quiet," Gatlin said, "you can hear a pin drop."
This is how the loudest 10 seconds in sports begins.
The spectators immediately rose to their feet, screaming at the top of their lungs. As the runners strode for immortality below, Olympic Stadium sounded like Tiger Stadium before a third down for the defense on a muggy night in Baton Rouge, La., a scene so chaotic it once registered a minor earthquake on the Richter scale.
After Sunday night's race, a new measurement may be needed for the amount of time it takes for deathly silence to come alive to the point of eruption.
This time, 9.63 seconds.
Usain Bolt's 6-foot-5 body carried him faster than it did four years ago when he won the gold medal in Beijing with a then-world record 9.69. Sunday's time is now the Olympic record but not the world mark. Bolt owns that one too, a 9.58 from 2009.
Bolt crossed the finish line and, unlike last time, there was no showboating before hand. He was all business here in London, to the point that he probably could have beaten second-place Blake (9.75) and third-place Gatlin (9.79) while wearing a suit, dress shoes and a top hat and carrying a briefcase.
Why so steely, Mr. Bolt?
"It means more," Bolt said.
"Because a lot of people were doubting me. It means more because I've shown the world that, without a doubt, I am the best. This is where I want to become legend. That's just one step."
The next step is the 200 meters. Competition begins Tuesday and ends with the final Thursday. By repeating as Olympic champion in that event, too, Bolt believes the job will be done. Legend. There's an argument that he's already there.
Like swimmer Michael Phelps, who won four more gold medals in London after losing to Ryan Lochte in the 400-meter individual medley, Bolt responded when it seemed the odds were finally against him.
Bolt lost to Blake in the 100 and the 200 at the Jamaican Olympic trials. Bolt has been battling a back injury, so it was unknown what he would be capable of Sunday night.
During the semifinals earlier in the evening, he gave a pretty good indication with a 9.87.
"There wasn't any pressure really after the semifinals," Bolt said.
"I was really confident. I could feel it in my legs. My execution was great."
Bolt said he expects he'll be in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, at age 30, going for a third-consecutive victory in the 100. He'll have plenty of competition from Blake, who is just 22 and has already proven he can bring out the best in Bolt.
"Yohan gave me a wake-up call," Bolt said. "He knocked on my door and said, 'Hey, this is an Olympic year. Wake up.' I'm happy and grateful for that moment. It refocused me, and I got my act together."
For a race that takes less than 10 seconds, the 100 meters can bring out plenty of emotions. American Tyson Gay finished fourth with a 9.80, just one-hundredth of a second behind Gatlin. He could hardly speak after the race because his tears wouldn't let him.
Gay, 29, has still never won an Olympic medal.
That Gatlin, 30, took it from him was quite a story, too. Gatlin won the gold medal in 100 at the 2004 Athens Games but was banned from track and field for four years in 2006 for using performance-enhancing drugs. After training to regain his form the past two years, he is now the fastest over-30 man in history.
Gatlin, like Gay, cried after the race. He was talking about the American flag when he got choked up.
"I still think I've got a lot left in the tank," Gatlin said.
Likely, he doesn't have as much left as Bolt, who has turned the 100 into a chase for the silver for the American runners.
After he made his lap around Olympic Stadium to show his appreciation to his admirers, there would be no more celebration for Bolt. He claims he is not done here, and it would be hard to argue with him now.
"I'm not going to let [Blake] beat me in the 200 meters," Bolt said.
"He has a lot of work to do if he thinks he's going to beat me in the 200 meters. That's my main event. That's what I do. I'm not going to let myself down in the 200 meters."
First Published August 6, 2012 12:00 am