100m final: Thunder Bolt – Lightning Usain strikes twice

London 2012: Jamaican runner storms to victory, breaking Olympic record with time of 9.63 seconds

Usain Bolt became only the second man in Olympic history to take a second gold medal in the men's 100 metres final on Sunday night. With a time of 9.63 seconds – a new Olympic record – he beat Yohan Blake, his fellow Jamaican and the latest pretender to his throne, into second place in a race in which the first seven runners went under 10 seconds.

In a contest that also shaped up as a battle between Jamaica and the United States, the bronze medal was taken by Justin Gatlin, the champion of 2004. Gatlin was the first of a trio of Americans whose high hopes were demolished by their rivals from the Caribbean.

Thanks to Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins and one or two other local favourites, Bolt may never become the face of London 2012 in the way that he dominated Beijing. But there was still a sense, as there always is with the final of the men's 100 metres, that this was the focal point of the Olympic Games, the moment most likely to produce a feat of superhuman dimensions.

As the eight runners stepped into their blocks, the Olympic stadium seethed with a combination of tension and sheer glee. Two million people were said to have applied for tickets, and the 80,000 present knew how lucky they were to witness a race that turned out to fulfil their expectations.

Four years ago, when he burst into the global consciousness as an unpredictable 21-year-old, Bolt loped his way to a world record time of 9.69, which many believed could have been a tenth of a second faster had he not spent the last 20 metres beating his chest and looking for the faces of his friends in the crowd. In Berlin a year later he took the record down to 9.58, and that time he was trying.

He was trying on Sunday night, too. Although he prefaced his run with his customary repertoire of cartoon-hero gestures, there was no messing about once the gun had gone off and he had assembled his telescopic limbs into running order. The margin of 0.12sec separating the gold and silver medals spoke of his authority.

What a way this was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence from Britain. After the home team's gala performance on Saturday night, Sunday became a Jamaican carnival. The efforts of Britain's athletes still received the loudest cheers, but all night the competitors sporting Cedella Marley's Jamaican gold, green and black kit heard lusty acclaim from their compatriots in the crowd.

The ceremony at which Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, another prodigious Jamaican sprinter, accepted her gold medal for the previous night's women's 100m, also a repeat of Beijing success, was warmly received. The island's national anthem will be heard again this evening, when Bolt and Blake are presented with their medals.

In another life the two men might have been opening the bowling for West Indies against England earlier this year. Born in adjacent parishes on the north side of the island – Trelawny for Bolt, St James for Blake – they were both enthusiastic cricketers before taking up sprinting. Now they work under the same coach, Glen Mills, at the Racers Track Club in Kingston.

The burly Blake, three years younger and 6in shorter than Bolt, won the world championship in Daegu last year – the youngest man ever to do so – after a false start eliminated his training partner. He beat Bolt in Jamaica's Olympic trials at both the 100m and 200m distances this year, but a replay never looked likely once the taller man had shifted into top gear on Sunday night. Nor was Tyson Gay able to repeat his feat of two years ago, when he became the only man since Beijing to beat Bolt in a final. Gay finished behind Gatlin and ahead of Ryan Bailey, the third American runner.

Asafa Powell, the third Jamaican in the race and a former world record holder, had given the TV cameras a stare of mock menace during the announcements, but he stumbled off the line, fell back quickly and ended the race hobbling. Churandy Martina of the Netherlands and Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago, the silver medal winner in Beijing, finished sixth and seventh.

In repeating his success, Bolt emulated Carl Lewis, who won in Los Angeles in 1984 and was then promoted to victory four years later in Seoul after Ben Johnson was disqualified for a positive drugs test.

"I was slightly worried about my start," Bolt said afterwards. "I didn't want a false start, so I kind of sat in the blocks a little bit. But I stopped worrying and I executed, and it worked."

To those who, deceived by his inconsistency in the past couple of years and by his recent propensity for getting involved in car crashes, had questioned the seriousness of his approach to competition, he produced a riposte. "People can talk," he said, "but when it comes to championships, it's all about business for me."

The fastest time in Saturday's heats was set by Bailey, the least familiar of the Americans, a 23-year-old from Oregon who stands only an inch shorter than Bolt and delighted the spectators by stopping the watch at 9.88. He and Gatlin, who qualified in 9.97, became the first men ever to go below 10 seconds in the opening round of an Olympic 100m competition. But Bailey was overshadowed in the three semi-finals as the pace was raised by the better known men, with Gatlin qualifying for the final in 9.82, Blake in 9.85, Bolt in 9.87 and Gay in 9.90.

The crowd was also presented with the sight of two runners who had served bans for doping offences. Gatlin, suspended for four years in 2006 for the use of amphetamines, and Dwain Chambers, who returned to competition in 2006 after a ban for the use of human growth hormone, were both given a polite reception.

Bolt got off to his usual mildly disorganised getaway in the second semi-final, but he had overhauled the fast-starting Chambers by half-distance and pulled clear of the field before easing up to finish ahead of Bailey, with the British runner in fourth place and out of the competition.

Blake led Gatlin home in the third race, but a brilliant third place was taken by Adam Gemili, the former Dagenham and Redbridge footballer and current world junior 100m champion. The 18-year-old pushed hard in the last 30 metres to overtake the 20-year-old Ryota Yamagata of Japan and two highly experienced competitors, Derrick Atkins of the Bahamas and Justyn Warner of Canada, urged on by a crowd whose attention was grabbed by the teenager's thrilling late surge.

Gemili's time of 10.06 was not good enough by a matter of five hundredths of a second to give him a place among the final eight, but this was a performance of immense promise, by no means to be overlooked as the stage was set for a shootout featuring the greatest sprinter of all time. Bolt's standing has never been in serious doubt, but the reaffirmation of his pre-eminence gave London 2012 and its vibrant Olympic Stadium yet another precious memory.


Richard Williams in the Olympic Stadium

The GuardianTramp

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