Jamaica’s Usain Bolt came into the 2012 London Games as the defending Olympic champion and Olympic-record holder (9.69 seconds) in the 100-meter dash, also holding the world record at 9.58 seconds. But he was not considered a lock to win the 100-meter final, with a strong field that included fellow Jamaican star Yohan Blake.
Bolt faced the strongest competition of his career, and by winning gold he proved that he is worthy of being considered the greatest sprinter in Olympic history. In the process, he shattered his former Olympic record with a time of 9.63 seconds, the second-fastest ever in the 100.
In winning gold, Bolt became only the second man in Olympic history to win back-to-back titles in the 100, joining U.S. legend Carl Lewis, who accomplished the feat in 1984 and 1988.
Bolt’s win in Beijing came with relative ease, as he won by .20 seconds. But that field did not include Blake or any of the three U.S. sprinters—Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey—who are in this final. All four of those men crossed the finish line in 9.88 seconds or faster, which was faster than Richard Thompson’s silver-medal-winning performance for Trinidad and Tobago in Beijing.
As an overall athlete, Bolt will never be considered as great as Lewis, because Lewis was also a four-time consecutive gold medalist in long jump, whereas Bolt does not compete in field events. Purely as a sprinter, however, Bolt has proven himself as the most dominant sprinter of all time.
The Jamaican star is the defending Olympic champion and two-time defending world champion in the 200, and following his most recent display, will be favored to defend his 200 gold on Thursday. If Bolt successfully defends his 200 title, he will be the first athlete in history to win back-to-back Olympic titles in that event.
Bolt will also have heavy competition in the 200, especially from Blake, who has the second-fastest 200 time ever. Bolt, however, has proven he can beat the best at their best. In the final, silver-medalist Blake, bronze-medalist Gatlin and fifth-place Bailey all ran or matched personal-bests, while Gay ran a season-best in his fourth-place effort.
Bolt had the toughest race of his life in this 100-meter final, but he was able to ease up and coast to the finish line as he so often does. With the eyes of the world watching, he successfully defended his title and reign as the world’s fastest man, managing to pull away from Blake, Gatlin and Gay to win his greatest race ever.
Dan Hope is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist covering the 2012 Olympic Games. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Hope.