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Epic Usain Bolt elevated to pantheon of Olympic gods

By Tom Peck and Cahal Milmo

Was there ever any doubt? It didn't look like it last night when the greatest sprinter there has ever been took another huge stride towards immortality.

usian Bolt summed up his performance saying he was "one step closer to being a legend".

“He's lost it.” “He's not committed enough.” The words have been reverberating around Stratford, and the world, over the last few weeks.

He should have had them printed on the back of his vest, the only bit of him the pretenders to his throne had a chance to lay their eyes on. 9.63 was the time. Not a world record, but an Olympic one.

His training partner, and chief challenger, Yohan Blake came in second, but from 30 metres, there was no doubt. He didn't swagger over the line this time, pumping his chest, as he did in Beijing four years ago, but he probably could have afforded to — just.

“I was happy,” he said. “When I went out in the first round I felt I could do this. I was slightly worried about my start, I didn't want to false start again.

“I think I sat in the blocks a little bit so I don't think it's the best reaction in the world, but I executed and that was the key. My coach said, ‘Stop worrying about the start; the best part of your race is at the end — that's where you rule'.”

Asked about the people who had doubted him, particularly after he lost twice to Blake in the Jamaican trials, Bolt said: “I'm not concerned.

“I've said it from the start, people can talk, all they can do is talk. I tell you people that when it comes to the championships it's all about business to me and I brought it.”

There was no script for the race, of course, but it was unquestionably the ending that the 80,000 crowd wanted.

When the 25-year-old Jamaican emerged the roar was as loud as any that has greeted Jessica Ennis or Mo Farah in this unforgettable arena. But then, there were no Brits to cheer for. The veteran Dwain Chambers and the 18-year-old Adam Gemili missed out on qualifying by two hundredths of a second.

Finishing in second, Blake's time of 9.75 was a personal best, while Justin Gatlin, who served a four-year drugs ban in 2006, narrowly finished ahead of his US team-mate Tyson Gay in third place with a personal best time of 9.79.

Seven out of the eight starters finished under 10 seconds with the injured Asafa Powell finishing in 11.99.

Earlier, spectators holding the London 2012 equivalent of Willy Wonka's golden ticket had arrived in a state of eager anticipation. The ticket ballot for the blue riband event was 10 times over-subscribed.

Rod Fellowes (53), a computer consultant from Newport, Virginia, waved his distinctive purple ticket triumphantly as he arrived at the arena, having

flown overnight across the Atlantic. A self-confessed “athletics nutjob”, he said: “I'm so completely delighted to be here. It's been my dream for many, many years to watch the Olympic 100 metres. It will be the ride of my life.”

Others not quite so fortunate in the ticket lottery were willing to try out some more unconventional means — including a pair of attractive young women who were holding up a sign reading: “Take me with you for free — ticket wanted.”

There was resentment that, despite an undertaking from organisers that 75% of Olympic tickets would be sold to the British public, fewer than half of those in the stadium last night were from the host nation.

Jackie Doherty (23), from Maidstone, Kent, who had been to watch the basketball, said: “Like most people here I would give my eye teeth for a seat in there tonight. Having spent £9bn of public money on this I'd have thought we could be a bit more greedy in getting the British public in there.”

Tickets were being sold for £1,500 on websites including eBay and Craigslist.

One man entering the top-priced AA seating area declined to give his name.

He said: “I can't tell you because if my wife finds out how much I paid for this ticket she'll have my head on a plate.

“I bought it last week after the opening ceremony — I just had to be here. Put it like this, I won't be buying a Porsche any time soon.”

Bolt profile - Showman who lives the limelight

Usain Bolt is not only the fastest man on the planet, he is also one of the world's most famous sportsmen.

The larger-than-life character became a household name when he won three gold medals at the Beijing Games, in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay, breaking the world record in the process.

He went on to better that a year later at the World Championships with a new world record of 9.58 seconds.

But despite his impressive times, Bolt had not even originally been seen as a contender over the 100m in Beijing.

Born in Trelawny, Jamaica, Bolt burst on to the scene at 15 when he won gold in the 200m at the World Junior Championships in Kingston and silver in both the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.

A year later he won gold in the 200m at the World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, Canada.

In 2004 he became the first junior to break the 20-second mark in the 200m, clocking 19.93 seconds.

Further glory followed, with the now 25-year-old going on to win title after title.

At 6ft 5ins Bolt is a formidable figure but has often spoken of his laid-back approach to training, admitting he tends to eat and drink what he likes and does not spend as much time in the gym as he should.

After Beijing it even emerged that his snack of choice before races was chicken nuggets.

He has also had his fair share of injuries.

In 2009 he underwent minor foot surgery after being injured when his BMW M3 car skidded off the road outside Kingston and overturned.

He cut short his 2010 season due to Achilles and back problems and more recently he admitted he had been suffering from a stiff back which was causing a hamstring problem.

But before last night's race he had insisted he was fit and raring to defend his title.

With multiple sponsorship deals under his belt with Puma and Visa among others, Bolt's image is already plastered over billboards around the world.

The charismatic showman has also won himself legions of fans with his sense of humour and trademark gestures which he pulls out on demand.

After last night's success he is sure to be set for further stardom as he showed that no one is to take his title as the fastest man in the world just yet.

Belfast Telegraph


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