BERLIN — Billed as a battle of the titans, the men's 100-metre final at the IAAF world championships lived up to all expectations. But almost nobody could have predicted Usain Bolt would shatter his own world record with a superlative run of 9.58 seconds on Sunday.
The man known as "Lightning Bolt" destroyed his chief rival, Tyson Gay, who had to settle for silver despite setting a new U.S. mark of 9.71.
Gay has been nursing a groin injury all year, and required treatment at a medical clinic in Munich. Though it didn't affect his top-end speed, the injury did affect his start. Gay knew that without a good start his chances of running down the world's fastest man were remote. Still, he chased Bolt right to the line.
Asked later what he might have done differently, Gay just stared straight ahead.
"Nothing," he said "I had all the best doctors, all the best massage therapists, but it just wasn't good enough. [Bolt] ran an excellent time and he deserves much respect."
"I was upset at first when I crossed the line because I didn't want to lose. But I ran my best race ever."
Former world record holder Asafa Powell claimed the bronze medal in a season-best time of 9.84. That despite an injury sustained during the semifinals that left Powell, according to what his agent Paul Doyle told CBCSports.ca, a 50/50 bet to even compete in the final.
In the end, it didn't matter, as nobody could touch Bolt.
On Sunday night we saw just how fast the Jamaican can run flat out — a question that lingered ever since he shut down at 80 metres in the Beijing Olympic final and still set a world record of 9.69.
"For me it was all about going out there to win," Bolt said after the race. "I knew Tyson was running well all season. I got a good start and I took it from there."
"When I got to 50 metres I knew it was going to be tough for Tyson because that is the best part of my race."
For Bolt it was the culmination of a strange season, one in which he battled headwinds and rain seemingly every time he raced. Now he leaves with another world record and a $100,000 US bonus for his world-record achievement.
"I have been through a lot this season," Bolt said. "I started late training and then in the middle of the season I got into a car accident. "It's been crazy but I think I am in pretty good shape.
"I don't think I am in Beijing shape. But pretty good shape."
The three medallists joked with each other at the post-race press conference, and when a Chinese journalist asked Bolt if he had been fueled by his beloved McDonalds chicken nuggets, he laughed.
"Asafa said there were no nuggets here, but I found a McDonald's and had lots of nuggets for lunch."
Outside Berlin's Olympic Stadium, German spectators posed for pictures with Jamaican women who had wrapped themselves in their national flag, joining in the carnival that follows the world's fastest man.
Inside the stadium, where surprisingly many seats sat empty for the highly anticipated race, pockets of Jamaican fans in their yellow and green t-shirts and matching hats waved flags.
The festive atmosphere meshed well with the new attitude Bolt has brought to the world of sprinting. Well after most of the crowd had cleared out, the remaining journalists on hand were treated to the figure of Bolt running, jogging and doing Kung Fu kicks in the air while being photographed by his agent Ricky Simms. He posed for photos with a few media officials before disappearing into the hands of the anti-doping control.
It's clear that Bolt's showmanship has caught on with his competitors, as all except Gay posed and preened for the cameras before getting into the blocks for the final.
Bolt was asked later if he has achieved his goal of becoming a living legend.
"For me I don't think two seasons can do it," he answered. "I have to do it year after year. Its going to take a lot of hard work because these guys are going to keep coming next season, and the next and the next."