When he crossed the finish line 0.12 of a second ahead of countryman Yohan Blake, he put his finger to his lips, a gesture intended to tell those who doubted him leading up to these Olympics to, well, shut up.
“I was just telling them, you can stop talking now,” he said. “I’m a legend.”
Bolt, the world’s fastest man, forcibly seized the stage on a night Ashton Eaton earned the title of world’s greatest athlete, clinching the decathlon gold while U.S. teammate Trey Hardee snagged the silver. The pair became the first Americans to finish 1-2 in the event since 1956, but it was hard to hear their voices above the din that followed Bolt.
“The 1-2 finish was what we really wanted,” Eaton said. “It’s been a really good history with the U.S. and decathlon. Trey and I are just doing our best to carry it on.”
Bolt also overshadowed arguably the night’s most magnificent piece of work: the world record set in the 800 by Kenyan David Rudisha, who lowered his own mark by 0.1 of a second to 1 minute 40.91 seconds while winning his first Olympic gold.
For Bolt, though, the night was all about . . . Bolt.
“I’ve done something no one has ever done before,” he said. “I made myself a legend.”
As Hardee and Eaton prepared to labor in their last event, the 1,500 meters, Bolt tied a Jamaican flag around his neck like a fashion scarf and skipped around the track’s perimeter. He borrowed a working photographer’s camera, put the strap around his neck and spun and took pictures of the crowd and Blake, who also claimed the silver in the 100 final. Blake beat Jamaican Warren Weir to the finish; Weir came home in 19.84.
Wallace Spearmon, the only American in the race, finished fourth in 19.90.
Bolt did push-ups beside the track. He jogged back to the finish line and bent over, kissing it twice, then stood up and did his signature pose, to the delight of the rollicking crowd. Later, he bounded to the top of the medal stand with a standing broad jump to receive his second gold of these Games.
Before the start, he had gathered his teammates, offering them three words: “One, two, three,” signifying the medal sweep.
“Four years [ago], when I was in high school, I watch him on TV,” Blake said. “For him to come, four years later, is not easy. . . . He’s a legend.”
Said Weir: “I played my part in history.”
Said Bolt: “There wasn’t a doubt.”
Well, there had been some doubt. Sunday’s victory had registered as something of a surprise, because Blake beat Bolt in both the 100 and 200 at the Jamaican Olympic trials, and Bolt hadn’t competed in the nearly six weeks between the trials and Games.
“In June, Yohan Blake really opened up my eyes,” Bolt said. But “I told him two years before . . . it is not your time. It’s my time. After the Olympics is your time.”
For a few seconds, it looked as if it might have been Blake’s time. After a bit less clowning at the start than usual for Bolt — who offered a royal wave to the crowd, shushed the crowd and crossed himself before the gun went off — the five-time Olympic gold medalist got off fast.
Yet the much more petite Blake — he stands 5 feet 11 to Bolt’s 6-5 — showed some Jamaican sprinting pride, coming off the turn with churning legs and, it seemed for a second, a chance of running down his country’s biggest star.
But Bolt, whose knees seemed to stride up to Blake’s chin, didn’t let close become a disaster. He did, however, have a moment of concern — his back tightened.
He ran the straightaway, he said, just hard enough to stay in front of Blake, easing up at the finish. Bolt didn’t come near his world record of 19.19, or even the 19.30 he ran in Beijing at the 2008 Summer Games. Blake, too, has gone faster; he clocked a 19.26 last year at a meet in Brussels.
“I ran the curve hard,” Bolt said. “I ran it a little too hard. When I came off, I felt my back, a little bit of strain. I thought [I should] not push too hard, just stay ahead of Blake. That’s why I slowed down.”
Bolt almost angrily dismissed a question from a reporter who told him that Victor Conte, the mastermind behind the so-called Balco performance-enhancing drug scandal of 2003, had speculated that 60 percent of Olympians use drugs.
“It’s really annoying when people on the sidelines talk stupid stuff,” Bolt said in a huff.
Later, at the post-race news conference, Bolt ripped into former Olympic champion Carl Lewis for unspecified, negative comments about the sport and doping. Lewis has long alleged hidden doping in track; he also has publicly questioned whether Bolt could repeat.
“I’m going to say something controversial: Carl Lewis, I have no respect for him,” Bolt said to reporters. “The things he says about the track athletes are very downgrading. . . . All the drug stuff. For an athlete to be out of the sport and to be saying that is really upsetting.”
Those were the only flashes of displeasure.
Bolt is 25; Blake and Weir, 22. All are coached by Jamaica’s Glen Mills, and the younger two figure to have a great future. Mills and Bolt got the party started. It will be up to Blake and Weir to keep it going.
“This was a joy,” Bolt said. “To just shut up, pretty much anybody can say what they want to say, but I’ve set myself above that. . . . I am the greatest.”