Usain Bolt crushed all doubts that he is still the world’s fastest man, winning the Olympic 100m in dominant fashion Sunday.
Bolt finished in 9.63 seconds, a new Olympic record. His teammate Yohan Blake followed, in 9.75. American Justin Gatlin won bronze in 9.79.
After crossing the finish line, Bolt, barely winded, went straight to celebrating. He joined in a group hug with his Jamaican teammates, then began a lengthy victory lap. He draped himself in his country's flag, did a somersault, and urged the roaring crowd for more.
Halfway through his lap, he stopped, kissed the track and gave his now-famous "To The World" pose, pointing both fingers in the air while the fans screamed, according to the Associated Press.
The 100m showdown was Sunday’s main event and arguably the signature competition of the Olympic Games.
Bolt was the defending 2008 gold medalist and holds the world record, 9.58 seconds. A magnetic personality who physically towers over his competition, Bolt was for a long time considered unbeatable. But he had recently shown vulnerabilities. Sunday's race included four men considered potential heirs to Bolt's crown: Blake, who beat Bolt at Jamaica’s Olympic trials last month; Jamaican Asafa Powell; Gatlin; and his teammate Tyson Gay. Many predicted that the 2012 Olympic final would be one of the greatest races ever.
But it wasn't even close, really. Bolt started out in the middle of the back, then ran everyone down in the final 50 meters.
Amazingly, all but one of the eight runners finished in less than 10 seconds. The exception was Powell, who apparently hurt himself.
Bolt is the first man since Carl Lewis in 1984 and 1988 to win the 100m in back-to-back Olympics.
Earlier on Sunday, Sanya Richards-Ross won gold in the women's 400m, four years after her disappointing finish in Beijing.
She finished in 49.56, ahead of 2008 gold medalist Christine Ohuruogu and teammate Dee Dee Trotter.
It was a moment of vindication for Richards-Ross, who after winning draped herself in the American flag and embraced her husband, Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Aaron Ross.
Richards-Ross is a two-time gold medalist in the 4x400m relay, and five-time U.S. champion in the 400m. She went into the 2008 games as the favorite, but came and third, a finish that left her in tears. The failure weighed on her, and motivated her.
Now she can forget about all that and concentrate on being an Olympic champion.
Also on Sunday, the man known as the "Blade Runner" fell far short in his bid for the Olympic 400m finals.
Oscar Pistorius of South Africa finished dead last in his semifinal heat, but ended smiling anyway. Before leaving the track, he accepted a hug from world champion Kirani James of Grenada. The two men traded bibs with each other's names.
Pistorius, a double amputee, is the first athlete to compete in both the Paralympics and Olympics. He fought for four years to be included in the London games before officials finally agreed that his high-tech carbon fiber prosthetics didn't give him an unfair advantage.
Although he failed to reach the finals in the 400m, Pistorius is still scheduled to run for South Africa in the 4x400m relay on Friday.
Track and field competition began in the morning, with a rain-soaked women’s marathon, won by Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia Gelana, who finished in 2 hours, 23.07 seconds, five seconds ahead of Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya. Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova of Russia took bronze. Shalane Flanagan was the top American to finish, ending in 10th place.
The afternoon schedule kicked off with qualifying rounds of the women’s 400m hurdles. The three Americans in the competition, world champion Lashinda Demus, Olympic rookie Georgann Moline and T’erea Brown all qualified for the semifinals, to be held Monday.