James Lawton: Tomfoolery just a mask for Olympic champion Usain Bolt

Bolt was masterly in the nonchalant way he conquered his world

The fastest gun in the world is still beautifully oiled, still consummately able to shoot down anyone who might doubt him.

That was the requirement of the man who made himself a wonder of the world four years ago and who last night proved that those who still held him in awe were absolutely right.

Usain Bolt, shortly before his 26th birthday, larked even more extravagantly than he did before erupting so sensationally in Beijing in the last Olympics, but again it was the tomfoolery of someone with deadly and infinitely justified intent.

Yohan Blake, the 22-year-old who so many expected to see triumph, ran a personal best — and so did Justin Gatlin. But they were simply destroyed, along with the idea that this was a vulnerable champion who did not have powers beyond the comprehension of all his rivals.

The American Tyson Gay, another left in his mighty wake, hinted as much when he said, "He's the guy who's been where we haven't."

It is a place he still occupies without any serious challenge and he knew it well enough at the finish. "There is talk and talk but it is just talk. I went out tonight and I knew I could do the business. I just went to show I could do it again – and I always believed I could."

This time he could only break his own Olympic record with a huge, loping, power-laden dash to the line in 9.63sec, 0.06 of a second faster than his last triumph and, after all the injury worries, just a stride or so away from his world-record mark of 9.58.

There was an indication earlier in the evening that he was indeed ready to once again re-establish his unique place in the history of foot racing.

It may be hard to imagine a thunderbolt rolling along like Ole Man River but this was less so when Bolt cruised into the final slightly less than two hours before the moment that had for so long been seen as the dramatic centrepiece of these Olympics.

In his first heat on Saturday he confessed to a stumble at the start and a certain difficulty in engaging the mechanics of his extraordinary running action, the long earth-consuming stride which smashed the world and Olympic record in Beijing four years ago – and then brought the mark down to a scarcely credible 9.58 in Berlin precisely a year later. There may not have been so many pyrotechnics leading to last night's last act, only defeats by his young Jamaican team-mate Blake, but the idea that he was beset by crisis was certainly put on hold when he arrived for the great showdown as third fastest qualifier – behind Gatlin and Blake.

As Dwain Chambers was forced off the stage he had fought so hard to regain – he ran 10.5 against Bolt's 9.87 in the second semi-final – the great man took a leisurely glance behind and promptly decided that he could spare himself any more serious effort.

Both Gatlin (9.82) and Blake (9.85) had looked ferociously brisk. Bolt, by quite startling comparison, appeared to be mildly exercised. If this was just another touch of psychological warfare, it was conducted with some of the usual panache. He rolled his eyes and then wagged a finger. It was if to say that that it had been such folly to doubt him, a suggestion that carried a lot more weight than it might have done 24 hours earlier.

It meant that the aura of Bolt as the fastest man on earth had at least a few more hours – or maybe eternity as the first man to retain the Olympic title if we put aside Carl Lewis's elevation after the drug bust on Ben Johnson in Seoul in 24 years ago.

The latter possibly was certainly sharply indicated by the huge movement in the betting odds after Bolt's strolling finish in his semi-final. Before going in, he was a mere 8-11. Coming out, he was a stunning 2-7. Blake, his recent conqueror, was at 7-2 while Gatlin, the fastest final qualifier by 0.3 seconds was a distant 16-1.

The men who need to be right had passed an early verdict, while Michael Johnson declared, "It is Bolt's race to lose."

Really, what the race was for was an announcement of a stunning ability to cover the ground, enforce amazing standards of achievement in the most dramatic race that the Olympics ever stage.

Bolt was masterly last night and thrilling in the ostensibly nonchalant way he re-conquered his world.

Of course he wasn't nonchalant, he wasn't playing the clown. He is about the vocation of his life. He was about the serious business of being the fastest man the world has even known.

It is title that for some time is unlikely to feel the breath of a threat.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment