LONDON - There was a moment of calm in Olympic Stadium before the men's 100-meter dash, a moment of calm after Usain Bolt winked, and crossed himself, and shushed the crowd, and blew a kiss, and grinned like he knew something no one else could.
There was a moment of doubt during which Bolt, notoriously slow out of the blocks for a star sprinter, fell into line with his competitors, creating fleeting seconds of suspense in a race that is over in the time it takes to send a short text.
Finally, 50 meters from the finish line, as a crowd of 80,000 rose and filled the bowl with noise, there was a moment of realization, when Bolt began stretching his long legs and pulling away from the fastest collection of sprinters ever assembled.
In Beijing, when Bolt became an international sensation by blowing away an Olympic field in the 100, he coasted to a finish, setting a world record while slowing at the line. In London, following a year of injury and technical concerns and relative failure, Bolt wore a look of determination rarely seen on the face of a man whose celebrations take longer than his workouts. He did not slow.
His only concession to his certainty that he remained the fastest man on Earth was his eyes sliding left, to the clock. He knew he had won. He just didn't know how fast he had run.
Seven of the eight sprinters broke 10 seconds. Bolt broke the line in 9.63, an Olympic record and the second-fastest 100 meters ever run, behind his own world record of 9.58.
"I've said this for years," Bolt said. "When it comes to the championship, I'm all business.
"I want to be a legend."
Adrenaline and momentum carried Bolt halfway around the track, and he played to the crowd, striking his now-famous poses and hugging fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake, who took the silver. Later, beneath the stands, as dozens of reporters crushed forward, Bolt raised his voice so Blake, farther down the row, could hear him.
Blake beat Bolt in the Jamaican Olympic trials in the 100 meters and 200 meters, as Bolt struggled to get out of the blocks, struggled because of back and hamstring injuries that cast doubt on his staying power. Blake, though quiet, has expressed confidence in his ability to beat Bolt in the 200 meters again.
"I've told Yohan Blake," Bolt yelled, staring at the floppy hat worn by his teammate, "the 200 meters is going to be different, because that's my pet event. I'm not going to let him beat me again. Yeah, boy!
"The trials were a wake-up call. Yohan called me and said, 'This is an Olympic year.'"
The only real threat to Bolt's status as the fastest man on Earth was his own perceived lack of seriousness. Now he has proved his staying power. He became the first man ever to cross the finish line first in consecutive Olympic 100 meters. The only man to previously win gold in the event in two consecutive Olympics was Carl Lewis, who was awarded one gold when Ben Johnson was retroactively disqualified for taking performance-enhancing drugs.
The substances Bolt says he swears by are chicken nuggets, plantains, pork and fruits, all of which he ate on Sunday. "I didn't eat too much," he said. "I didn't want to feel too full for the race."
Cocky enough at 21 to coast to an Olympic finish line, Bolt at 25 is ambitious enough that he promised not to celebrate much after his 100 win, lest he endanger gold in the 200 and the 400-meter relay, and ambitious enough to use the word "legend" a half-dozen times in interviews.
Bolt's postrace antics felt like a pantomime of his past celebrations. After, he was quiet and serious. "I'm looking forward to running fast and breaking records," he said. "To me, this means the most, because I've shown the world that I'm the best."
He left no doubt.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org