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Usain Bolt remains the world's fastest man. Last night at the London Summer Games, the Jamaican superstar successfully defended his Olympic 100-meter title. Bolt ran his second-fastest time ever, an Olympic record - 9.63 seconds. He joins American Carl Lewis as the only other man to win consecutive Olympic 100s. NPR's Tom Goldman is in London.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: We watched in awe four years ago, as Usain Bolt established a new reality in elite sprinting. Coming into these games, the invincible Bolt looked less so. A little over a month ago, his Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake beat Bolt in the 100 and 200 meters, at the Jamaican Olympic trials. There was injury, and Bolt said this week he was 95 percent fit. So there was doubt last night, as the world's fastest sprinters settled into their starting blocks. And 80,000 people went pin-drop quiet.
(SOUNDBITE OF STARTING SHOT, CROWD CHEERING)
GOLDMAN: Bolt's start wasn't perfect; that's often the case. But after losing those races at the trials, Bolt's coach said, stop worrying about the start. Unburdened, Bolt said last night, "I just ran."
USAIN BOLT: I tried my hardest. And I looked across, and I thought I was going to win, so. I almost did what I did in Beijing.
GOLDMAN: Instead of spreading his arms before the finish, and mugging to the crowd - like he did in China - Bolt powered through. Then the mugging, the trademark arrow pose with the Jamaican flag draped over his shoulders - although some in the stands missed it.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He'll do the arrow again, won't he?
GOLDMAN: Oh, he did - again and again. Bolt's theatrics are a big part of his show. He says it's for the fans who help him relax, with their overwhelming support. The show includes preening during his pre-race introductions. Last night, he rubbed his hands over his head, an ode to the man who cuts his hair; and waggled two fingers, a promise he kept to friends who wanted him to make - this is a direct quote - "bunny ears." But Usain Bolt is not just speed and whimsy. Last night, he talked about taking seriously the doubts growing around him, and the recent losses to his young teammate and rival.
BOLT: Sometimes, you lose sight because everybody's praising you. Everybody's saying, it's great, you're doing well; and then you lose sight. But for me, I've said it - at the trials, when Yohan Blake beat me twice, it woke me up; it opened my eyes. It - pretty much, he said - come and knock on my door (making knocking noise) and say, Usain, wake up. This is the Olympics here. I'm ready. Are you?
GOLDMAN: Blake won the silver medal last night. American Justin Gatlin was an intriguing bronze-medal winner. Gatlin won the 2004 Olympic 100, served a four-year doping ban and at 30, was back on the medal podium last night.
JUSTIN GATLIN: I went out there and challenged a mountain. I went out there to challenge the odds - not just myself, everything I've been through but, you know, the legacy of Usain Bolt. And I had to go out there and be fearless.
GOLDMAN: Even without fear, every man who lines up against Usain Bolt in the Olympics, ends up in his wake. His goal, which he expressed again last night, is to be considered a legend. But he says that can only come if he defends his 200-meter title as well. Bolt, a half-legend at this point, goes for full status on Thursday.
Tom Goldman, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.